Book Review: ‘Plague Town’

Author: Dana Fredsti

Publisher: Titan Books

Review: I’m not going to lie: the cover of this book did not put me in a reading mood. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I’m a pretentious snot who has been known to impulse by books with minimalist cover art and secondly it strongly reminded of the kind of covers they’d put on a ‘Buffy’ book whose author was as far removed from the actual television show as, well, me. But I had agreed to read this book and so I put down my current bedtime companion, a ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ book (you may have heard of them), and focused all my attention on the first page of ‘Plague Town’.

A quote from Big Trouble in Little China. Huh. Maybe I misjudged it…

Before we get any further, let’s take a look at the plot. ‘Plague Town’ promises to be the first of a trilogy based around a lass named Ashley Parker. Late twenties and at college, speaking her mind and having fun. Whilst having a picnic with her hunky young boyfriend they run the risk of the day being ruined by ants – but in reality the day gets ruined by an onslaught of zombies. Both Ashley and her boyfriend are promptly chewed on. When awakening later in a military compound under the college Ashley learns that she is a ‘Wild Card’, a very small part of the population who are immune to zombie toxin and, for reasons not really explained, also get enhanced senses, strength and healing powers. She along with a few other Wild Cards are recruited and trained to become an elite unit to suppress the zombie outbreak.

‘Plague Town’ in unapologetically a genre zombie story. There’s no attempts to change up the formula with the gimmicky glue-on ideas like sprinting zombies or intelligent zombies or any other blatant attempts to separate themselves out from the shambling pack. There’s actually something refreshing about a new zombie fiction of the market that so willingly embraces the concept instead of turning out yet another ‘Zombie Self-Help Guide’ or such. Author Fredsti is very clearly a fan of the subject matter, even going as far to poke fun at the recent modern attempts at ‘new’ zombies.

This is a picture of zombies. Seemed apt.

Fredsti is also very clearly a massive geek, and happy to flaunt it. The book is riddled with references to many of geekdoms favourites. Army of Darkness gets name checked frequently, characters swap lines from Aliens as they roll into battle and even subtle references to Starship Troopers slip through. The characters speak almost exclusively in movie quotes, which would be grating if it wasn’t so gleeful. In short this is a zombie book written by a geek for geeks.

On a base level it is pure pulp. Some descriptive phrases get repeated and the characterisation is pretty thin. Being part of a planned trilogy also means that there’s no resolution to speak of even after all the zombies in the area have been eradicated. It’s not going to redefine the genre nor is it going to challenge you – but you’ll be hard pressed not to have a bucket of fun reading it.

If you want to read an alternative reality version of Buffy where she battles zombies using samurai swords, then this delivers in spades. It’s funny, it’s revoltingly gory in just the right way and I’ll be picking up the sequel when it rolls around.