Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel
Paperback, 368 pages, $7.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Do you miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Wish that she had specialized in zombies rather than bloodsuckers? In lieu of Ms. Summers, there’s a chick named Ashley Parker who happens to fill the bill. As the feisty heroine of Plague Town, Ashley bears the stamp of the pop culture prototype. And yet she’s also a very enjoyable protagonist in her own right. Author Dana Fredsti has imbued the kickass lass with a freshness that extends beyond the requisite snarky dialogue. Yeah, she’s reminiscent of BTVS and has a variation of the Scooby Gang as her compadres; but she’s less pouty about her role as warrior. In a zombie apocalypse, indulging in self pity is a luxury that costs lives. Fredsti keeps the conversations crisp and the characters accessible as she skillfully reworks the paradigm.
Ashley is a member of a unique clique. Known as Wildcards, this group of individuals weathered a devastating virus with enhanced senses and immunity to certain kinds of zombie assaults; lessening the possibility of contamination. While not possessing the attributes of superheroes, this posse is armed and amped up on adrenaline. Even the meek and mousy get brassy and ballsy during the induction into guerilla warfare. Ashley is not one of the formerly timid: She has a reservoir of inner strength and a wisecracking sensibility that is heightened by the horrific circumstances. Which isn’t to imply emotional detachment; she is highly responsive. A wave of revulsion strikes while observing a makeshift medical ward: “There were a dozen or so cots, all occupied by thrashing people. None of them looked good. Sallow, greenish-yellow skin tone, like jaundice with a bad case of mold. Blood and other fluids leaking from their mouths, noses, and ears. Some had raw wounds on their arms or legs while others had bandages seeping with blood – or in some cases, nasty, foul-smelling blackish ooze. Most of them had restraints strapped across their arms, waists, and legs, along with metal collars around their necks. The straps were totally disturbing, and the collars were strangely decorated with a bunch of rings. It was just plain creepy.”
Where there is “creepy” there are also creeps. The creep factor is personified by a macho military man who crosses the path, and raises the wrath, of Ashley. In this grand depiction, the novel’s author deftly delineates the guy’s testosterone infused posturing: “He stopped at the front of my bed, legs planted firmly apart in what I’m sure he thought was a heroic stance. He had this total middle-aged Charlton Heston thing going on, all craggy features and stern expression.”
More tension between the sexes is played up in two sets of romantic entanglements; the primary one featuring the protagonist and a dude who rubs her the wrong way in all the right places. The secondary contentious coupling concerns an older duo. Their sparks resume flying when they meet again after years of separation, and abstinence from each other’s carnal company.
Dana Fredsti pulls together all the elements of her narrative with great aplomb. Plague Town is a romance, an action-adventure story, a horror novel, and a delight to read. Ashley Parker will return to battle zombies in the next installment of the series. She’s a gal to be reckoned with: And a hoot, to boot.