Series: WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF) with Zombies
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—2; Humor—3
Publisher and Titles: Daw
1 My Life as a White Trash Zombie (7/2011)
2 Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (7/2012)
4 How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back (7/2014)
With the threat of a full-blown shambler pandemic looming, and a loved one stricken, Angel and the “real” zombies scramble to find a cure. Yet when Angel uncovers the true reason the plague is spreading so quickly, she adds “no-holds-barred revenge” to her to-do list.
Angel is busting her ass dealing with shambling hordes, zombie gators, government jerks, and way too many mosquitos, but this white trash chick ain’t giving up. Good thing, since the fate of the world is resting on her undead shoulders.
The plot of WTZ Unchained reaches back to the previous book in which Angel's addiction to the V12 zombie drug damaged her zombie parasite. At one point in that book, she bit a man who was trying to kill her and then killed him and left his body deep in the swamp. In WTZ Unchained, that episode comes back to haunt her.
The gist of this story is that out of nowhere, a zombie pandemic sweeps through the county. First to succumb are two men fishing in the swamp. When the first body is brought to the morgue, it rises up from the slab with chomping teeth and slashing fingernails. From that point on, the situation grows steadily worse as more and more average citizens suddenly become vicious, ravenous "shamblers."
Dr. Ari Nikas, the Tribe's chief scientist, believes that Angel's damaged parasite is causing the new zombies to be out-of-control shamblers. Of course, Angel feels extremely guilty about the zombie pandemic because she created the very first shambler—Judd Siler. As she explains to Nick, "He tried to kill me...and I bit him—just a regular old bite on his arm. The next day...he attacked me and ended up getting shot dead. Not by me...I, uh, needed the fuel, so I busted his skull and ate his cerebrum. But later that night he came after me as a shambler—even though he was missing the top of his head. I had to rip out his cerebellum and medulla to kill him for real." Then, Angel left his body deep in the swamp. (Of course, at the time, she didn't realize that it was her bite that had turned him into a shambler.)
Unfortunately, some alligators ate Judd's body and became infected (zombie alligators!!!). When those same alligators bit the fishermen and scratched some of the first responders who were searching for the body of the second fisherman, the pandemic began. But the alligators didn't bite ALL of the other dozens of people who have become infected, so why did they suddenly become shamblers? Did Angel and her damaged parasite unleash some type of airborne or water-borne plague? Or could the Saberton Corporation and Dr. Kristi Charish somehow be involved in this catastrophe?
This main plot moves along like a police procedural with Angel and her allies searching for clues and investigating tissue samples in the Tribe's laboratory in the hope of finding a cure. Eventually, Dr. Charish volunteers to work with Dr. Nikas on that cure. But can they trust her?
Meanwhile, let's take a look at Nick and Angel's tortured relationship. You'll recall that at the end of the previous book, Nick watched Angel's body rot away and fall into pieces (which tends to take the romance out of a relationship). Now that Dr. Nikas has regrown Angel's body, she can't even look Nick in the eye. She cannot imagine that he would ever be interested in her again—even as a friend—after seeing (and smelling) what happened to her. But she shouldn't give up on Nick quite yet. He has a lot more character and much deeper feelings for Angel than she realizes.
The book ends with the showdown to end all showdowns: FBI agents, helicopters, explosions, a heartbreaking death, and a leap off a tall building. Relationships of all kinds are nicely resolved. Dr. Nikas even gets a girlfriend. And what about the Kristi Charish problem, you ask? Well, Rowland resolves that one with an unexpected, very satisfactory twist.
Although I enjoyed the final chapters of this book, I have to say that I had a hard time plowing through the first half. I kept putting the book down and finding reasons not to pick it up again. (It took me a week to finally get through it.) Basically, I think that the whole white-trash-zombie thing has run its course. The series should probably have been a trilogy instead of a dragged-out six books. Although the premise of the series is inventive, it's a one-note mythology that lacks the depth for long-term exploration. Additionally, most of the supporting characters never developed beyond their original one-layer personalities. They smiled and bantered and participated in the story lines, but Rowland never went below the surface on anyone but Angel. That might have worked for a few books, but not for six.
This may well be the final novel in this series. On the author's web site, Rowland states that, "Angel has carved out her space in the zombie world for six books. Beyond that I don't know at this point." Because Rowland resolves all of the major plot lines of the series arc, WTZ Unchained has a satisfactory "final" feeling to it. Another good reason to end the series now is that Angel has lost a lot of her original snarky, sassy, hard-edged demeanor. By the end of WTZ Unchained, she is downright dewy-eyed and somewhat sentimental, and her white-trash singularity is slowly but steadily giving way to middle-class mundaneness. I'm not sure that a cheerful, happy zombie heroine would be very interesting.
If you are a series fan, you'll definitely want to read this book just to see what happens to Kristi Charish. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from White Trash Zombie Unchained on the book's Amazon.com page by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon.
In this world, zombies can heal themselves and give themselves super strength and speed if they regularly and frequently consume brains. If they miss a few days, however, they begin to fall apart in the familiar zombie way—strips of skin falling off, skin color turning gray, and rotting odor growing stronger and stronger. In book 1, the whole idea of the super-strength zombies and the healing powers of brains just didn’t work for me. It was as if the author took the traditional vampire mythology and forced in zombies as replacements for the vamps:
> Must have human blood to maintain strength
> Attain super strength through excessive blood consumption
> Can heal themselves through excessive blood consumption
> Become mindless monsters without blood consumption
> Are created by the bite of another zombie
> Must have human brains to maintain strength
> Attain super strength through excessive brain consumption
> Can heal themselves through excessive brain consumption
This is a book that I wanted to love: great cover art and a terrifically inventive premise. As the story opens, Angel has just been picked up by the local police from the side of a country road—naked and full of drugs. She can’t remember anything about what happened that night. The next day, Angel receives an anonymous note telling her that she has a job in the county morgue and if she doesn’t show up and act right she will be going to jail. When Angel reports to work, she is surprised to find that she has no problem with the dead bodies, no matter what state of decomposition they are in. She is even more surprised that her stomach growls every time a brain is exposed during an autopsy. So…Angel seemingly has a new addiction: brrraaaaaaaains! Add in a cute police detective and a serial killer who chops off heads, and you have an imaginative new paranormal series. The major theme for book 1 is that Angel’s zombi-ness actually saves her life. By the end of the book, she has cleaned up her act and has become an upstanding citizen.
Click HERE to listen to a lengthy audio excerpt (scroll way down to find it). Click HERE to read a print excerpt.
NOVEL 2: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues
NOVEL 3: White Trash Zombie Apocalypse
Angel has been a zombie for almost a year now, and she's settling into her new life as well as can be expected, given the dangerous events chronicled in the first two books. Fortunately, her job at the morgue is going smoothly, and she's about to take her GED exam, so her life is looking pretty good. As the story opens, Angel is on the job, picking up a body at the local high school, where a film company is making a zombie movie. When Angel is nearly run over by a speeding car outside the school, she is rescued by Philip, the zombie she was forced to create in the previous book. Angel is shocked to see Philip, but he runs off before she can thank him for saving her life. Already we can guess that Philip and the zombie movie will no doubt play key parts in the plot.
Gradually, suspicious events and overheard conversations cause Angel to suspect that the movie-making group is hiding some nefarious secrets, but she just can't figure out what they are. Then, she is attacked by zombies (one of whom is Philip), and a woman takes a blood sample from her while Philip holds her down. Then they tranquilize her and leave her in her truck in a downpour of rain suffering from several broken bones and mashed internal organs. Why does Philip attack Angel? Why do they take her blood? What is going on here? All of these questions are eventually answered as Angel continues involving herself in dangerous happenings that always result in serious injuries that require extra doses of her brainy nutritional smoothies. As the rain keeps coming nonstop, the river floods the lowlands where Angel and her dad live in their "rustic" little house—with frightening consequences for the Crawford family.
Angel's relationship with Marcus is still rocky because he won't stop trying to advise her how to live her life. Late in the story, though, Angel figures out why Marcus is acting so paternally, so perhaps their relationship will get better. Marcus had better get himself together, though, because there's another man in Angel's life who would like her to give him a chance.
This is a strong entry in the series, with a compelling story line and a great deal of character development, particularly for Brian Palmer (Pietro Ivanov's head of security) and Pietro himself, although Pietro makes a major TSTL move in this book when he continues to trust a character who has proven in the past to be completely untrustworthy and probably sociopathic. Although the mysteries in the plot are interesting and somewhat suspenseful, I was able to figure out what was going on long before Angel did. Even so, it's a good story, and I'm looking forward to more of Angel's adventures, mostly because she's such a fascinating character. Click HERE to listen to a brief audio excerpt from the book (scroll way down to find it). Click HERE to read an excerpt.
NOVEL 4: How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back
(As you can surmise from reading the previous paragraph, this book will be EXTREMELY confusing to anyone who has not read the previous three novels in this series. In fact, if you haven't read the other books, you probably won't understand a word of this review.)
When Naomi Comtesse (aka Heather Miller, aka Julia Saber) discovers that Saberton's private jet traveled from Louisiana to New York City, Angel, Philip, Naomi, and Kyle Griffin (Naomi's zombie boyfriend) jump into a car provided by Angels ex-boyfriend, Randy, and head for Manhattan. There, they discover an intricate, devious plot being carried out by Nicole Saber with the assistance of her son, Andrew (Naomi's twin brother). The story has plenty of action, as Angel and her friends try to rescue Pietro (and others) while hiding from Saberton's goons. Complicating matters is the fact that Philip and Angel are suffering from identical patterns of rotting because they were in the middle of the shared-drug experiment that was taking place when Dr. Nikas was kidnapped. In addition, Philip is having periodic periods of uncontrollable manic anxiety.
Near the end, Rowland throws in a major change in the zombie mythology: a deus ex machina that comes out of nowhere to resolve much of the conflict. After the lengthy, technical explanation of the zombie mythology in book 2, this divergence comes across as a contrived plot manipulation. Why go to all the trouble of spelling out the scientific basis of zombie physiology if you're going to blow it up in this book? Up until this point, I was really enjoying the story, but when I came to this mythology manipulation, I felt cheated. It was as if Rowland had painted herself into a corner and had no other way out but to bring in a game-changer. I'm guessing that this situation arose because WHITE TRASH was originally planned as a trilogy and then was expanded to a six-book series, thus requiring a bit more complexity in order to come up with new and exciting plots.
In addition to her adventures involving the Saber family, Angel must also deal with her various romantic problems. First, her boyfriend, Marcus Ivanov, once again tries to make decisions about Angel's life, which leads to some relationship turmoil. Then, Angel meets up with Randy once again, which leads to a rekindling of their friendship. Finally, Angel is attracted to Philip, which leads to hardly anything at all—just some kind words and a few "I-got-your-back" moments.
Angel is off-kilter throughout this adventure. She has never travelled very far from southern Louisiana; she has less than $100 in her bank account; and she is in the company of people who are much more sophisticated, wealthy, well-traveled, and better trained than she is. These factors cause some major bumps in Angel's friendship with Naomi as Naomi repeatedly gets annoyed with Angel for not accepting financial assistance and can't seem to understand why Angel feels out of place. The scenes in which Angel copes with being a lifelong, unskilled "have-not" are quite poignant.
As the book ends, Pietro's life has taken an unexpected path; Marcus's plan to attend law school has been up-ended; Randy and Angel have become friends again; Angel's dad has a new girlfriend; and Angel's addictive tendencies are once again coming to the forefront. Click HERE to read an excerpt.
Except for the mythology change that I discussed above, I really enjoyed this book. Even though Angel is still the klutzy, insecure young woman that she has been in previous books, she is beginning to build a skill set and is working on a plan for the future. Let's hope that she is able also to keep her addictive personality in check. Even with the new mythology, I'm looking forward to Angel's next adventures.
FAIR WARNING: My review of WTZ Gone Wild
Soon she’s neck-deep in lies, redneck intrigue, zombie hunters, and rot-sniffing cadaver dogs. It’s up to her to unravel the truth and snuff out the conspiracy before the existence of zombies makes headline news and she’s outed as a monster.
But Angel hasn’t quite escaped the pill-popping ghosts of her past—not with an illicit zombie pharmaceutical at her fingertips. Good thing she’s absolutely sure she can handle the drug’s unpredictable side effects and still take down the bad guys…or maybe she’s only one bad choice away from being dead meat—for real this time. Angel knows a thing or two about kicking ass, but now the ass she needs to kick might be her own.
In the previous novel, Angel Crawford took a new drug called V12 in order to survive some dangerous situations. The drug works with the zombie parasite to make her feel more alert, and it counters her dyslexia, making her college courses less of a struggle. As Angel puts it, V12 makes her worries "slip away like a greased pig on ice." Unfortunately, Angel's addictive personality has gotten the best of her, and she has continued to inject herself with V12 without the knowledge of Dr. Ari Nikas, the Tribe's zombie research doctor. Now, she is completely addicted to V12, and it is beginning to have some serious side effects, like hallucinations, loss of inhibitions, increased appetite for brains, and accelerated rotting. Here's how V12 makes her feel within just a few seconds after injection: "Delicious warmth spread through me like a smile. The sun shone brighter. My lips tingled. Diamonds glittered on the dash and sparkles tickled my nose…All was right in my world." How can Angel resist something that makes her feel so good?
Just as Angel is beginning to realize how serious her problems are with the side effects of the V12, the morgue dispatcher sends her out to pick up a body with a missing head. Although the local police fear that the serial killer from the previous book has returned, Angel knows better. But who would want to kill this man, and then decapitate him and steal his head? Angel's investigation into that matter is one of the main subplots.
Another subplot deals with two of the zombie Tribe's long-time enemies, Saberton Corporation and Dr. Kristi Charish, who has escaped from the Saberton labs and is now negotiating with both Saberton and the Tribe to determine who will give her the better deal to work with them. Charish is a sociopath with no moral compass; she wants to be able to do whatever experimentation she wants with the best equipment and for the most money.
The beginnings of another subplot are sketched in but not developed. In that one, the FBI shows up at several funeral homes and at the morgue in Tucker Point, asking questions about how they handle bodies. This story line will no doubt be further developed in future books.
By the time the conflicts are resolved, Angel has slogged through a gator-filled swamp, has been shot through the chest, and has succumbed to some horrific side effects from a huge dose of V12. (Don't eat lunch before you read that scene!) By the end of the book, four different groups have placed trackers on her car.
The story, then, follows Angel as she deals with Saberton agents, attempts to solve the headless man's murder, and tries to enjoy herself at Tucker Point's Zombie Mardi Gras celebration, which features the premiere of High School Zombie Apocalypse, the movie that was the focus of the previous novel. Angel's investigations are complicated by the emergence of a flash drive that may contain files showing real zombies in action and the presence of a cadaver dog that alerts its handler to zombies because they smell like human remains.
And what about Angel's personal relationships, you ask. Well…she and her former boyfriend, Marcus, are now just friends, mostly because he couldn't stop making all of her decisions for her no matter how often she tried to lead her life her own way. We don't see much of Marcus in this book. Angel also remains friends with her ex-boyfriend, Randy (the pothead she dated in her pre-zombie days), and he plays a major role in this book. At one point in this story when Angel is high on V12, she makes a spontaneous romantic move on a familiar character who shall remain nameless here, and we'll just have to wait and see how that relationship develops.
Future books will also be dealing with the zombie Tribe's inevitable dilemma—one that is faced by every supernatural group that you have ever read about in paranormal fiction: whether to continue to hide their true nature from the human population or to reveal themselves and deal with the consequences. Can you guess which side Angel takes?
Although I had some trouble (at first) remembering all of the pertinent details and events from the previous book, Rowland slipped in enough background and review information to get me past the initial discomfort. By the time the real action began, I was right there with Angel, hoping that she could kick her addiction and knowing that she would, once again, save the day for the Tribe. If you are an Angel Crawford fan, I'm sure that you will enjoy this novel. Although Angel suffers some grave injuries in the course of her adventures, she never succumbs to panic, and she always has a plan. Angel's efforts to overcome her V12 addiction are agonizing to watch, but her never-give-up attitude pulls her through time and time again. Angel has promised herself that she will never again be a drug-addicted loser, and she works hard to make it so.
Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from White Trash Zombie Gone Wild on the book's Amazon.com page by clicking on either the cover art or the "Listen" icon. RT Book Reviews gave this book 4½ stars. Click HERE to read the RT review.