Thursday, June 6, 2013

Zombies Don't Collate

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Zombies Don't Cry, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. Even the book's cover summary includes spoilers. Zombies Don't Forgive, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Zombies Don't Forgive
~Zombies Don't Forgive~
A Living Dead Love Revenge Story
Book 2

By Rusty Fischer
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Zombies Don't Blog

Maddy Swift was just a normal girl—a high school junior surviving class with her best friend and hoping the yummy new kid, Stamp, would ask her out. When he finally did, her whole life changed.

On her way to the party, she was struck by lightning and awoke with no heartbeat and no breath in her lungs: the walking dead. When Barracuda Bay’s homecoming turned into zombie Armageddon, Dane helped Maddy and Stamp escape undead.

Now Maddy, Dane, and Stamp have fled to Orlando, where they work at a theme park, hiding in plain sight among warm bodies with their jobs in The Great Movie Monster Makeover Show. But all is not well as the three BFFs of the Living Dead cohabitate 24/7 trying to avoid curious Normals (humans), vengeful Zerkers (bad zombies), and equally lethal Sentinels (zombie cops).

While Dane and Maddy draw closer, Stamp drifts away—straight into the arms of a mysterious blonde with a permanent scowl. The girl puts their whole afterlife in danger, and before long Maddy’s ready to hunt her down to separate her from her head!

Starting off, I gotta get my first complaint out of the way: I couldn't find one time the word "forgive" showed up in the book. Not. A. One! How am I supposed to use book quotes as my review titles if you never say the key word from the title?! (The current review title came from a chapter name.) Now that that's out of the way...

I am happy to announce that this book's prologue is safe to read! You may remember my warning from Zombies Don't Cry that its prologue kinda sorta spoiled the ending of the book, seeing as it took place immediately afterwards. Well, have no fear, this prologue is genuinely set before the story starts, providing a suspenseful yet entertaining look at where our characters are now.

Maddy, our narrator and heroine, was fun to read again. She's done a bit of growing from when we last saw her, but she's still smart, sassy, loyal and brave. The fact that she kept in touch with her dad, no matter what the risk, but still as stealthily as possible, really tells you a lot about her character. She's also gotten more badass in her fighting, which I'm happy to say she shows off a couple times, yet she's still sociable enough to fit with her original personality from book one.

And of course we have our requisite YA love interest, Dane. What didn't get too much time to develop in the last book has finally had time to grow here, and I ended up liking the pairing. Dane seemed pretty uptight at first, but after he finally opened up to Maddy, we got to see his barriers come down and got a little humor in there. He did come off as a little dense at times, especially with his paranoia and over-protection of Maddy, but it's clear his heart was in the right place. And, most importantly, he learned from his mistakes and knew when to let go, so he's not a controlling asshat.

Which leaves our third wheel, and major plot spoiler from book one, Stamp. Based on the cover of the book, I was expecting a-little-to-a-lot more Stamp. Maybe even a little narration? Of course, the newly-reborn zombie looking for love story was kinda the focus of the last book, but I still think a little Stamp perspective would have fleshed (geez, the zombie puns are too easy) out his character a little more. As it was, he seemed dim, slutty, and a tad annoying at times. The only time I wasn't ticked off at him was when he was the victim.

But I will say I was very impressed with a couple new characters Rusty has brought into the fray. Val, Stamp's new crush, is an intelligent and feisty little lady. To borrow Rusty's own words, Val's like if Dahlia and Bones "were reincarnated on crack with a PhD in mean and a black belt in bitchery" [pg 204]. She's not only a great character to root against, but also interesting enough to want to know more about her, how her mind works, and just what she's capable of.

And then there's Vera, who is pretty intelligent and sassy herself, though in a very subdued way. She's the type of person who's cool enough that you wish was your boss, but strict enough to make you glad she isn't. I don't normally approve of characters withholding vital information from other characters, but Vera did it right. It was a game for her, both a test and a display of power, dangling he info just out of reach before handing it over. An interesting foil for Maddy to work against, and someone I hope to see more of.

As you can imagine, having two V-names in one book can be tricky for the reader. Fortunately they were kept apart for much of the book, so there was very little confusion between the two. However, funnily enough, I did find one instance where the author accidentally mixed them up. Then again, it was Maddy talking about Vera while looking at Val [pg 273], so I suppose we could blame the character on this one... Nah. Sorry, Rusty.

(I also really enjoyed Brittni, though she was only around for one short scene. Having a non-annoying normal girl character getting along with our main cast was a great touch, even if it was only for a fleeting moment.)

The gore level in this book was about on-par with the first, though it did contain some gross-out elements concerning cat food (shudder) and a few small animals. I've never been one for gore, neither visual nor written, so to say that I still don't have issues with this series is probably a good sign for the squeamish. That's not to say that there aren't some pretty horrific things happening. The action and horror has ramped up appropriately, but I'd say most of the gory details are kept at about the same level as book one, making this still teen-appropriate.

On the downside, I still don't fully understand the zombie bite mythos of the series. There's a point where Maddy & Co. encounter a zombie that has been bitten by a Zerker, and has thus been turned into a Zerker. Why? Is it a case of what bit you last? We know from the previous book that Stamp was bitten by a Zerker first, then 'saved' by Maddy's bite. So does the disposition of the zombie who bit you influence what you become? Is it simply a matter of electricity and rewiring, or is there a biological element to it? (There's mention of a 'yellow flu' outbreak, but it's unclear if this was a legit disease or incorrect media coverage.) If it's purely electrical, why don't tasers and copper effect zombie/Zerker-ness? Obviously this stuff doesn't have to be based on real science, but it would be nice if there was a little consistency to the world, especially as there are now zombie scientists.

Now, I probably wouldn't have spotted this particular inconsistency from book one to two if I hadn't just re-read Cry, but as it's mentioned multiple times, I feel I need to bring it up. They kept talking about how the Fall Formal had Zerker-turned faculty, football players, and cheerleaders...but there were no cheerleaders in the final battle. I even went back to double check. Dahlia and Hazel battled it out with Maddie and Chloe in the girl's bathroom, then Bones busted in with Home Ec teacher, about 10 more faculty members, and then the football team (courtesy of Stamp). So unless Rusty is referencing events in Vampires Drool! Zombies Rule!—which also happens to occur at Barracuda Bay High—the cheerleading team should still be alive and well. Not a book-ruining error, or even story-changing, but something I couldn't help but notice.

Another thing I couldn't help noticing was the ending. Frankly, it seemed way too easy. Okay, I don't have a huge problem with things suddenly clicking into place at the last moment, but I do have a problem with it when it hinges on order systems & governments. If the rules are enforced to the N'th degree all the time, why would allowances suddenly be made now? And for that matter, why would deviance from the system suddenly garner reward? It's all a little too convenient for my liking.

But more importantly, the tone of the book, and really the series as a whole, changed dramatically. It's a happy ending. Of a zombie book. That isn't the end of the series. Zombies Don't Cry gave us an ending full of tragedy and heartbreak with a little glimmer of hope on the horizon. Zombies Don't Forgive gives us a story full of suspense, intrigue, and vengeance, but an ending of kittens and rainbows with a tiny sprinkle of foreboding and a "What could possibly go wrong?" cherry on top. Don't get me wrong, I was happy for the characters, but I think I got a little whiplash by how nice and neat that ending was, which in turn soured the experience.

Knowing there's another book on the way (Zombies Don't Surrender), I'm simultaneously excited for and dreading it. If things are gonna go bad, they're gonna go really bad. I can't help but think about the Artemis Fowl series, reading the very clear ending of Eternity Code where everything is wrapped up in a happy ending, then reading Opal Deception and having that happy ending completely ripped to shreds. Happiness just can't happen in the middle of a series without terrible consequences. And with zombies and Zerkers involved, I shudder to think what that might be.

Overall, I'm sure any fans of the first book will find Zombies Don't Forgive an engaging continuation to a stellar series. For those who enjoy YA romance, zombies, or any combination of the two, this series is a must. Gore is kept mostly in low-detail, however violence and a few instances of severed body parts (and chomped brains) are very prevalent, so keep that in mind for younger readers. I'd suggest no younger than middle school, but it's probably geared more toward high school and up. So, those looking for brains can check the pet food aisle, but those looking for books should definitely check out Rusty's latest foray into the world of zombies.

Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 hours