2014’s  How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back, fourth in the series, picks up after Angel Crawford has made a good start at rebuilding her new life after the calamities—flood and various wacky series arc hijinks—that swept through her town in White Trash Zombie Apocalypse. Angel even got her GED after a lot of studying and some private tutoring that helped her to deal with her dyslexia. So that’s good.
The dead friend who turns up buried in a shallow grave? The wave of kidnappings that sweeps St. Edwards Parish? The fact that Saberton, the malevolent corporation eager to exploit zombieism regardless of the cost to the zombies (and given that at one point they seemed on the verge of triggering a zombie plague, the cost to the world), seems to be back for another swing at the undead piñata? Not so good. And that’s not ever mentioning the brand new, progressive disorder with which both Angel and her spawn Philip are struggling.
There’s also the fact that Saberton appears to have suborned people in the Tribe (formerly known to Angel as the Zombie Mafia). The company certainly has a source of information close to Angel, something that makes assembling a team to strike back at Saberton a bit more fraught than usual.
But Angel and her pals are nothing if not determined, and they desperately want their friends and allies back. Even if getting them back means taking a road trip to New York City.
This isn’t Homer Simpson goes to New York; aside from the people trying to kill and exploit her, Angel seems to really enjoy her first trip to the big city. There’s a lot of SFF that paints terribly negative portraits of cities, but this isn’t one of them. I guess that’s in keeping with the author’s charitable attitude towards Louisiana; her books do NOT paint Louisiana as an irredeemably horrible hellhole.
In this book, we learn more about how zombieism (technically, ghoulism) works. The handwaving isn’t that persuasive but the the series is still harder SF than about two thirds of Larry Niven’s stuff. I began to wonder if there were useful civilian applications. The zombie commensal contributes a whole range of transformations to its human hosts, some of them apparently useful. If Saberton could ever be convinced to stop trying to weaponize the commensal and focus on purely civilian applications, the whole series could turn into one of those Protean SF series I’ve talked about in other reviews . But … that would completely change the setting (which is now mundane + a little weird) , so I really don’t expect the author to go in that direction.
I wanted to read this book for the Angel gets her GED stuff, and was somewhat disappointed that most of it was about the on-going epic struggle with Saberton . However, the plot does seem to be going *somewhere* rather than spinning in an endless stalemate. It also struck me as kinda cool that one of the major antagonists was riled up as an unintended side-effect of a gambit that Angel herself thought was a good idea at the time.
The Angel’s Personal Growth plot does get some attention. I am sad to say that while some of it is “Angel begins to assert herself with her pushy maybeBF,” “Angel gets a heartfelt compliment on her accomplishments from her superior,” and “Angel seriously considers courses whose credits will transfer to a four year college program,” the book ends on a pretty ominous note; the parasite may have transformed Angel, but apparently not enough. In fact, I began to wonder if Angel had been helped to shed most her less constructive habits because the circumstances of her new life satisfied her need for thrills. (In addition to the shock of a near death experience and commensal rewiring, of course.). Now she may be hankering for thrills again. Because once you get used to it, an on-going war with a giant amoral corporation can be more of the same old, same old.
The ending is more grim foreshadowing than cliffhanger, but it really makes me wish the next book was due out now and not in October. I’m crossing my fingers for Angel.
1: July 2014. It’s July 2015. Does that mean the next book in the series is due out soon? (Checks DAW site) Coming soon! White Trash Zombie Gone Wild! Whoot! Release date October 2015! Less whoot!
2: Recurring series villain Doctor Charish doesn’t play a major role in this novel. Charish seems to have a level of plot immunity that keeps the Tribe from just eating her. On the one hand, it’s nice to encounter protagonists who are not casual killers. On the other, it seems to me what is keeping Charish alive is less basic decency on the part of the Tribe and more perceived future plot utility on the part of the author.