BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The same old tired zombie genre gets a swift kick in the pants courtesy of a female protagonist who is not only not afraid to lead, but wishes they would quit hitting on her.
PROS: Sheriff Penny Miller, a foul mouthed, zombie killing beauty in a wedding dress who is not afraid to lead a pack of wimpy guys; fast paced with lots of foul-mouthed banter (yes, that is a “pro”).
CONS: Common Zombie plot lines.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s about Sheriff Penny Miller, not the zombies!
With the absolute deluge of zombie novels and their similar plots and devices, I’d sworn them off. Eating my way through The Walking Dead on Netflix was enough for me.
Let’s face it: the repetitiveness of government/mad scientist/Josef Mengele/”name-your-bad-guy” experimenting with some drug/genome sequencing/yeast infection/super soldier which turns up dead then revived with a mad hunger to eat others is a pretty well worn rut in the path. But when I saw the cover of The Hungry, featuring a female Sheriff wearing a wedding dress holding a shotgun…I had to dig in.
The plot starts in familiar fashion, on a secret military base in the desert of the southwestern United States. Experiments on patients go wrong, a soldier is bit, manages to hide it leaving the base (that part always surprises me, but not after watching TSA again this morning), and he starts a mass epidemic. Enter Sheriff Penny Miller, two prisoners in her jail, a scared deputy and a decent amount of artillery. She is a foul mouthed, apparently good-looking, country Sheriff who is not afraid to take charge or to shoot a zombie in the head. When the zombies attack, she releases her prisoners and arms them. One of them promptly gets munched on and is shot by the deputy. The other prisoner, Scratch, shoots the deputy and Miller, patches her up, deposits her in her car and takes off. She drives/stumbles/crashes into her wimpy ex-husband Terrill Lee (great names!). Their dialog (and the crass language) are typical of the banter throughout the book:
“Warm shit on a shingle,” he said quietly. “Are you…are you still alive?”
“At this particular instant, kinda wish I weren’t.”
Miller coughed. Fresh pain seared through her shoulder into her lungs. Agony spread throughout her body. The bitter taste of blood rose in the back of her throat.
“If you keep standing there with your thumb up your ass, I might just get my wish.”
Terrill Lee lowered the shotgun. “What happened, Penny? What the hell is going on out there?”
“Can we talk about this inside? I’m in a moderate level of distress at the moment. I could use a little help, if you can stand to be around me again just long enough to patch me up.”
The plot is fairly predictable (although Sergeant Sheppard did have some surprising moments) but it moves at a great pace. But the characters are the story. Shannon and Booth surround Penny Miller with men of questionable morals and backbone, and she’s not afraid to take the lead.
The story is well set for a sequel, and even though I’ve sworn off zombie novels again, I’ll make an exception.