Many have written entertaining, chilling renditions of zombie lit to keep the horror fiction fan entertained; though as many, if not more, have stumbled in their attempt to frame this area of the dread-literature canon. With Plague Town we’ve a zombie book aimed at the more mainstream pulp-horror audience, and it’s one whose author Dana Fredsti has balanced decently, and with a nod to those finest traditions which have gone before, ideas and their implementation to create an entertaining – though quite clichéd – read.
Plague Town focuses on the plight surrounding Ashley Parker, a student in the college town of Redwood Grove. Lots of folks in the town have been suffering from a highly contagious, not to mention downright nasty, strain of the flu that’s going by the nickname of Walker’s. The reader soon learns that this flu is fatal – but that there’s also a lingering undeath after-life effect for those who succumb to it. So it is that many of the victims of the dreaded z-bug expire only to start the dreaded undead-shuffle, with a good dose of flesh-eating desire thrown in for good measure.
Ashley soon discovers that there’s something menacing shambling around out there, when a romantic picnic in the woods with her boyfriend turns into a meal with a course of meat on the menu that definitely hadn’t been planned for. Amidst the hellish chaos and unwelcome news following this incident, Ashley receives a further, more-welcome revelation in the infirmary: she’s told that she’s a wildcard. That means she’s immune to being turned into a zombie, having been once bitten. Et voila, there’s more – she’s drafted in to a secret military group composed of similar folks, whose aim is to eradicate the zombie menace.
So begins a new, action-packed direction for Ashley and cohorts as they get to cleaning up things in their own unique way. Along the way there’re nods to many, many associated genres/shows/books/characters. It’s possible that there might be too many of these – but given the books target audience and honest approach in injecting these, it’s not like they’re inappropriate to the subject matter.
There was one thing about the whole reference’s vibe that I picked up off of the book, and that’s that it really, really felt like I was reading a Buffy-related fan-fiction from around Season 4 of that show, one with zombies instead of vampires. And maybe some characters injected from the Left for Dead series of games. Again, this isn’t for the bad so much, but I really did get the Buffy/Riley Finn vibe, not to mention Maggie Walsh, from a certain trio of characters.
Nonetheless, this book is a mostly joyful (for the reader that is) pulp-horror read in the world of zombie horror. Fredsti writes fun, shocking and engaging prose, and her readers get delivered an adrenaline shot to the synapses as she whisks them from one chaotic engagement to the next with the rag-tag bag of zombie-killing wildcards.