Road Trip of The Living Dead
Published 2009 288 pages
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
Summary (from the book jacket)
Celebrity party girl Amanda Feral is back from the dead, and hungrier than ever for a good time. With her zombie gal pal Wendy and vampy gay sidekick Gil, this stone cold fox is dressed to kill, on the prowl, and ready to take a big juicy bite out of Seattle’s supernatural nightlife. But what’s a zombie chick to do when her ‘Mommie Dearest” gets sick? If you’re Amanda Feral, you can either ignore the wicked old witch – or bury the past by visiting Ethel before she kicks it.
Amanda’s not thrilled about the idea of crossing three states just to be criticized. But Wendy, who’s always looking for fresh meat, is up for the adventure. And Gil, who just launched his ‘luxury’ resurrection business, needs to disappear because a pissed-off client is out for his blood.
First, they pack their stiletto pumps and plasma into a skeevy rattrap on wheels that used to be a Winnebago. Then, with a little help from a Korean-ghost hood ornament, a masochist named Fishhook, and a slew of ‘moderately accurate’ psychics, they hit the highway – their way. Of course, they’ll have to navigate past some neo-Nazi skinheads, a horny dust devil, a hunky werewolf cop (who could pass for an underwear model) and an unsightly horde of supermarket shoppers. But for this glamorous gang of ghouls this trip is about to take a dangerous detour that could give road kill a brand new meaning.
Most readers approach second books in series with a bit of wariness, wondering if they will enthrall or disappoint. If you enjoyed Happy Hour of the Damned, the first book in Mark Henry’s Amanda Feral series, you will thoroughly enjoy the sequel, Road Trip of the Living Dead.
In this adventure, Amanda, our favorite fashion-savvy Queen of Snark learns her mother, Ethel, has cancer and has moved into a hospice three states away. With no love lost between mother and daughter, in fact, Amanda tends to spit venom at the thought of her mother; she has no desire to visit. Well, the idea of putting a pillow over Ethel’s head and helping her on her way does have a certain appeal, fellow zombie pal Wendy always likes something new and Gil has pissed off a client of his new business venture Luxury Resurrections and should disappear for a while.
Amanda couldn’t have a road trip without drama, a host of colorful creatures and, of course, a few shopping expeditions. On the night they depart and with help from Wendy’s psychic, Madame Gloria, they manage to find shelter before dawn to save Gil from a deadly sunburn or digging an impromptu grave. Unfortunately, the sketchy vehicle they find - formerly known as a Winnebago - already has an inhabitant, a mangy scrap of a guy with a penchant for swallowing fish hooks hence his new name, Fishhook.
He pales in comparison to other beings they meet from Nazi skinhead turned zombie mistakes to drug-dealing cult members to a sexy werewolf cop (Yeah, Amanda finally gets laid) and more that I just can’t describe as well as Mark Henry. Henry’s mind continues to amaze me. If possible, Road Trip of the Living Dead has even more hilarious and disgusting (in a good way, of course) lines than Happy Hour and continues the theme of dark, biting humor. To wit: “The trailer was surprisingly cozy, albeit decorated in dingied shades of yellow and cream, the effect reminiscent of an oozy yeast infection.”
In addition to introducing us to fabulously weird, but wonderfully developed characters, we get more insight into Amanda’s childhood and what makes her tick. She shares a few examples of why she can’t stand her mother (one story involved the gift of a chocolate bar that most of us would use as a cure for constipation) and a glimpse of why the snark could sometimes serve as a defense mechanism.
As with Happy Hour, characters drive the story forward rather than plot. I didn’t say there wasn’t a plot. Fishhook, in one of his moments of clarity, tells Amanda that “they’re comin’, girl.” Amanda thinks it’s Gil’s pissed-off client chasing them, but perhaps someone else has picked up their trail. Henry expertly weaves this mystery into the plot with twists and turns and questions and more than enough suspects.
Henry has a talent for description like no other. Scenery out the car window, people, bars, campsites and the domain of a certain psychic all come to visual life under Henry’s touch. Yes, they sometimes evoke visceral responses, but they’re always vivid. And, after all, it’s the writer’s job to engage the reader, right? Road Trip of the Living Dead is a no-holds-barred success. I can’t wait to read Battle of the Network Zombies, due out in March 2010.
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