Friday, March 23, 2012
Book Review: Wanted Dead or Undead
I recently got the chance to review Angela Scott's "Wanted: Dead or Undead". As the website states, it's a "western romance ... zombie style".
Needless to say, being a bit of a curmudgeon, I had certain pre-conceived notions going into reading this book. The zombie thing is all the rage right now. The Walking Dead just finished up its second season with a bit of a cliff hanger. Zombie movies are rearing their undead heads just like it's the golden days of horror movies, with blobs and giant ants and Godzillas everywhere you look. The odd, paranormal genre is in full swing, propelled on by the likes of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. Just look at all the classics being re-written with zombies: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to name a few.
So, to be honest, when I first started the book I imagined it was just going to be a lot of zombies chewing on people's heads, but only set in the wild west.
"Look out, Jimbo," cried Duke as a zombie ate Jimbo's face.
Now, don't get me wrong. I like the zombie genre. Other than some gaping gaps in the mentality of the script writers for the Walking Dead (why does Karl never stay in the house?), I eagerly await the next episode. I enjoyed Zombieland. I will gush about Shaun of the Dead to anyone who will sit still long enough. I liked World War Z well enough.
So. I had some reservations about "Wanted: Dead or Undead". Small publisher. An author without a lot of experience under her belt. Was it just going to be blood and guts splattered on the walls of the local saloon instead of on the walls of the strip-mall? Was it just going to be The Outlaw Josey Wales ... and Zombies?
The first chapter kind of felt like it was just going to be blood and guts and mayhem, but it was all just setting up the backstory of one of the main protagonists, simply known as Red. And her story is just one of several twists that left me surprised. More and more, as I read, I saw that it wasn't a zombie story. And as Red meets and joins other humans just trying to survive, I came to realize it was mainly a story about the interaction between the human survivors, that just happened to be set in the wild west. And that just happened to have zombies.
Now, normally I run for the hills when we start to get into all sorts of in-depth peeks into what the characters are thinking. Sure, I want them to be more than 2-dimensional tools, but let's not spend entire chapters on them wrestling with their emotions. But Angela Scott pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. Just enough delving into Red's mind and that of a potential love interest, Trace Monroe, along with others that they run into.
More than once I was caught off guard by the direction that the story took. And the twists and turns made me want to read more.
In the end, I would have liked to have seen the characters spend just a little bit more time contemplating what the zombie apocalypse meant. In some ways they took it a little too much in stride. I also would like there to have been just a teensy bit more exploration of what exactly it was going to take the characters to survive. In the wild west, would there have been plenty of bullets around for the taking what with everyone armed to the teeth for the constant onslaught of flesh-eating beasties roaming the land. And lastly, I would have liked to have had a little bit more resolution of some the problems put before the characters instead of leaving them for subsequent books, but that just speaks of how involved I was feeling.
And remember, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon. Normal people don't have the problems with stories that I do. I'm looking at you, The Walking Dead!