Posted on March 11, 2010 by alanajoli
Available at Amazon.com
You should, by now, already know about Amanda Feral.(1) The celebutante zombie star of Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead is back in action, returning to Seattle’s night-life scene, albeit with far less cash than she started with. Like the rest of the world, Amanda’s finances are on the rocks, and the only thing that looks like it will save her(2) from the bone-breaking threats of the reapers, to whom she’s indebted, is taking a role on a reality show. Amanda’s no actress, but playing herself to the camera is something she’s perfected. The problem is, she has to work opposite one Johnny Birch, a dirty wood nymph with sexual proclivities to make a yeti gasp. It’s no wonder someone wants him dead — Amanda wants to kill him within minutes of meeting him, after all — but it does put a hamper in the reality show when someone actually does murder the star. Far from being willing to give up, Amanda smells opportunity(3): make the show about solving the murder!
Amanda’s no detective, but her on-the-rocks boyfriend was a member of the police force before being turned into a werewolf. With his help, and the assistance of Wendy, Gil, and even Ethel (Amanda’s mother, if the word mother translates to antagonist-for-life), Amanda’s ready to crack the case wide open, and look good on camera doing it. And there are certainly plenty of excuses to check out the latest hot-spot openings in Seattle’s undead-scene that help with solving the murder. Right?
Where Road Trip of the Living Dead veered away from the Seattle celebrity scene that made Happy Hour of the Damned such a hook for the rest of the series, Battle of the Network Zombies throws readers right back into the world of zombies, vampires, windigo, fairies, ghosts, sirens, and other bizarre creatures of the night who are all just trying to make a living.(4) Mark Henry includes just as much snark as ever, and his send-up of reality television, both with Amanda’s show and the short TV Guide like blurbs for other programs at the beginning of each chapter, is dead-on. Better yet, while the novel pokes fun at the whole genre of television programming, it does so in an almost loving way — obviously, Henry has to have watched plenty of reality television to be able to lampoon it so well.
While we get a full on Agatha Christie style denouement as Amanda solves the case, we sadly don’t get the villain’s last monologue to explain why all the chaos happened in the first place. Happily the climax involves as much campy action as the movie Clue, so though I could have used a little additional filling in on why certain characters showed up at the conclusion, the end results are utterly satisfying. Even better, a long appendix at the end gives us a look at adolescent Amanda, just discovering how she can manipulate everyone around her, leading her to become the snarky bitch we all know and love. Amanda Feral and I would never be friends(5), and while she grows and develops as a character in Battle, she remains shallow, self-centered, and utterly hilarious to watch. Here’s to crossing my fingers that Amanda’s adventures will continue well after Battle of the Network Zombies!(6)
(As the reviewer, I received an e-ARC of this novel for free from the author. I’ve heard there have been some changes in the final version, so it is possible there are errors in my description.)
1) If not, why don’t you? You’ve had two years, people!
2) And her fabulous wardrobe.
3) Notably, opportunity smells better than the low-lives that make up most of Amanda’s meals.
4) Or eat the living. If they’re a good vintage.
5) You can find her at Myspace.com/amandaferal.
6) To help make sure Amanda gets further book contracts, consult the Save Amanda Feral campaign at www.markhenry.us.
Review by Alana Joli Abbott