Diana Rowland’s 2015 White Trash Zombie Gone Wild picks up some months after How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back. Angel Crawford may be technically post-mortal (since she’s what normals call a brain-eating zombie), but otherwise her
life existence is going pretty well. Work at the coroner’s office is fine, aside from hints of low-key hostility from her boss, Allen Prejean. She’s currently sans boyfriend, but she’s OK with that. Plus, thanks to a little drug she likes to call V12, she’s energetic, chipper, and has a handle on her dyslexia!
It’s true she has to steal the V12. But that’s totes easy; all she has to do is water down Philip Reinhardt’s experimental V12 medication. It’s not like anyone is going to notice! And it’s not like experimental medications ever have undocumented effects! And it’s true V12 greatly increases her need for human brains. But she can just steal those from work! It’s not like anyone would miss a brain or two or even all of them.
Except Allen does.
Allen’s keen eye turns out to be just the first crack in the Prince Rupert’s Drop of Angel’s life. Angel isn’t quite sure how to handle Allen’s sudden interest in the peculiar way there seem to be fewer brains than bodies at the St Edward’s Parish Coroner’s office, but one obvious step is scaling back her brain-eating for a while.
Surprise! Underfed zombies get to experience V12’s really interesting side-effects.
And it turns out that stealing the medication someone needs to control a life-threatening medical condition can itself have unintended side-effects, like the life-threatening medical condition no longer being controlled. And it turns out that Dr. Nikas, the man who developed V12, isn’t half as oblivious to Angel’s covert theft of V12 as she thought.
And the vast and well-connected Saberton Corporation, the series antagonist, seem to be up to something in St. Edwards Parish. Again.
The one bright note is that at least nothing can get worse, right?
Although her idiot ex-boyfriend Randy, of whom Angel is still quite fond, could get himself thoroughly entangled in a particularly gruesome murder.…
There’s a moment in the cinematic classic House II: The Second Story, in which an amiable electrician (played by John Ratzenberger) reacts to a pocket universe concealed in the walls of an old house. It’s “one of those time-portal things … you see these all the time in these old houses,” he comments placidly. Of course an electrician working in a universe where old mansions routinely contain Weird Shit would be familiar with and have the skills to deal with Weird Shit1. It’s funny because so many horror and fantasy stories depend on the mundane population being oblivious idiots.
This isn’t one of those universes where the mundanes are reliably oblivious to the obvious. It is one that has at least one Bill the Electrician moment.
As Angel points out to her fellow zombies, the fact that the modern world is filled with camera-equipped mobile phones connected to the internet means all that it will take for the big secret to get out is one person at the wrong place at the wrong time — with a smartphone. And as Angel further points out, it’s the attempt to keep the existence of zombies secret that makes them so vulnerable to Saberton’s repeated probes. I am very curious to see how this develops in the future.
As ever, I find the Saberton plots less interesting than the plots where Angel’s personal life has all the wheels fall off, runs into a tree, explodes, and is then hit with an IRS tax audit2. Happily, Saberton plays a minor (but crucial) role in this volume; the book pays more attention to how people manage to screw up their own lives without needing any help from shadowy megacorporations. Rowland has a nice handle on the ways that addicts can convince themselves that they are completely in control, even in the face of convincing evidence to the contrary. That’s just one of the flavours of bad (post) life choices on display in this entertaining novel.
And even though the book features a mysterious murder, a life-threatening medical condition, a vicious hate group, obligate cannibalism, Angel’s struggle with addiction, and a background rumble of corporate shenanigans … this is still the most up-beat, life-affirming series ever set in the great state of Louisiana of which I am aware.
Not that the zombies in this series are supernatural. They have parasites. Which makes me wonder what effect, exactly, a broad-spectrum anti-parasitic drug would have on the parasites and their hosts.
2: Say, has anyone ever done a Plucky IRS Agent against the Immortals Who Don’t File Returns Properly? I think it could be bigger than Percy Pulsar: Space Accountant, whose battle against the Big Bad was triggered by a small accounting discrepancy.