In the small university town of Redwood Grove, people are succumbing to a lethal strain of flu. They are dying—but not for long.
Ashley Parker and her boyfriend are attacked by these shambling, rotting creatures that crave human flesh. Their lives will never be the same again.
When she awakes Ashley discovers that she is a “wild card”—immune to the virus—and is recruited by a shadowy paramilitary organization that offers her the chance to fight back. Fatally attracted to her gorgeous instructor, and bonding with her fellow wild cards, Ashley begins to discover skills she never knew she had.
As the town falls to ever-growing numbers of the infected, Ashley and her team fight to contain the outbreak—but will they be enough?
Getting my teeth stuck into Dana Fredsti’s `Plague Town` was something I was seriously looking forward to. The rave reviews emblazoned across the cover were hard to ignore when I settled in to read it. Having heard it described as “The Walking Dead meets Buffy” by Amazon, this book sounded as if it’d been written especially for me.
We begin our Journey with our protagonist, Ashley Parker, in her dorm room in the small university town of Redwood – but not before a seriously chilling prologue let’s us know what’s in store. The prologue dives right into the thick of zombification and gore, which I found seriously refreshing. Instead of the usual fluff at the beginning of a zombie story where everyone in the audience switches off as panic, hysteria and a viable back story for the creation of the virus is monotonously churned out, we just get straight down to filthy zombie business.
Our first port of call is witnessing a family of three stricken by the virus. The father and son both turn and descend on the mother in a delightfully gory and tense scene. These three characters stay with us throughout the novel, through what I can only describe as a brilliant recurring plot device. We check in with the zombies every once in a while, just as we do with all the other characters, just to see how they’re getting on. I seriously enjoyed reading about the mother’s quest for flesh.
Pop Culture Powerhouse
I have to admit, as I turned the pages of the first chapter I was beginning to become skeptical about whether or not I was going to enjoy the book. Ashley is feisty 29 year old who takes us through the story in first person narrative, and with a divorce under her belt I wondered if I would be able to identify with the character. The book is packed full of pop-culture references which, initially, I wasn’t sure if I appreciated or not.
As a self-confessed Twilight fan I didn’t like the cheap shot catapulted at Edward within the first few pages. I couldn’t decide if I liked the references to Buffy, Twilight and Christopher Lee. I wondered if perhaps there were devices used to re-assure younger readers, such as myself at 21, that Ashley was a totally relatable character. Or maybe to reassure the fellas that a female protagonist didn’t mean they were in store for a soppy Twilight storyline. However, as the story progressed and I became acquainted with Ashley, I grew to appreciate her humour, references to South Park and got over the fact that she called Edward gay. (He is pretty gay in the movies, read the books).
With an unorthodox leading lady, and an unusual plot device all racked up within the first few pages, it’s no surprise that the rest of the story is just as full of unexpected twists and turns. Just like the prologue, the entire book strays from the path of the more conventional zombie apocalypse stories. My initial skepticism is punted out the window as far as the man punted Baxter in Anchorman as the story unfolds.
The first twist in the story is the introduction of the Wild Cards. Ashley and her boyfriend are attacked by zombies while they’re out being naughty together in the woods. We all know what that means, having sex in the story, going to die, right? Well, sort of. Her boyfriend Matt totally and utterly bites the dust, but he doesn’t exactly stay dead. Ashley gets bitten, but is rescued before they can rip her from limb to limb.
The Super Power Fallout
This is where we discover that Ashley is what they call a `wild card`. Immune to the virus, Ashley and a small handful of others have survived being bitten. Not only did the group survive the attacks, but they discover that the virus has actually made them stronger, faster and heightened their senses. The military operatives that rescued them enlist their help in tackling the zombie outbreak, who better than a group of soldiers that are not only super strong, fast and aware, but are also immune.
The military operatives include a few familiar faces from earlier in the book, I won’t say too much, but it’s blatantly obvious from his introduction that Gabriel is going to be joining us on our adventure. The adventures the Wild Cards have are tense, exciting and full of nasty gore. Ashley’s boyfriend ends up caged in an experimental lab, glazed eyes and a chomping flesh hungry jaw, which prompts Ashley into volunteering to fight against the pandemic. I loved every minute of it, and even refrained from rolling my eyes when characters made the typically stupid decisions that characters in zombie adventures do!
But, it’s not all raucous and rough.
One of my favourite parts of the book is something that struck a chord with me on a personal level. I actually sat on my sofa a few weeks ago wondering what I’d do in this exact position during a zombie apocalypse. My cats. How would I save my furry little friends! One of the Wild Cards, Lil, faces the exact same dilemma in the book. How will she save Binky and Doodle? You’ll have to pick up the book and see!
In A Nut Shell
All in all, it’s an excellent read. There are so many reveals in the book, some of them utterly predictable from the outset, but there a few that will knock you off your chair!
Sex, gore, violence, plot twists and cats! What more could a gal want?