White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, the third book in Diana Rowland’s clever urban fantasy series about zombies who pass as human so long as they eat enough brains, shifts the series in a new direction. Angel Crawford, the former junkie turned zombie turned productive morgue worker turned zombie mob doll, is still recovering from the trauma of militarized zombie experiments. She begins to rely more on the zombie mob boss Pietro against the wishes of her boyfriend (son of Pietro) Marcus’ wishes. At least Pietro is willing to show her a little respect after the danger he inadvertently put her in. Something strange is going on during the filming of a zombie movie in town and Angel is more than willing to find out what’s happening for the good of her new zombie family.
Diana Rowland makes two huge changes in White Trash Zombie Apocalypse that change the premise of the series. First, she flips the intimidating zombie mob boss into a sympathetic father figure for Angel. It’s a radical but welcome shift in character that opens up far better narrative possibilities as the series goes on. Angel’s in with the mob now and she’s ready and willing to work with Pietro to reach both of their goals.
The second change is not as welcome. The story of White Trash Zombie Apocalypse is rather slight and inconsequential. Save a man-made flood, there aren’t any high stakes in the book. The first novel had Angel learning to exist as a zombie and the second put her life on the line in a battle against her human and zombie instincts. The third novel is a whole lot of world-building, faction jumping, and regurgitated plot points about the zombie mob’s biggest enemy, the Saberton Corporation.
The stakes are so low that you have to rely on Angel’s voice to get through the novel; too bad Angel doesn’t act like Angel until a third of the way into the book. It feels like someone told Rowland to punch up the novel with a lot more exposition so they can rebrand the series for a wider audience.
It’s a mistake. The first third of the book is a long series of asides reminding the reader who everyone is and what Angel’s already experienced. By the time the mystery at the movie set takes over, the big twists seem insignificant compared to the stories repeated over and over to establish context. The greatest strength of the series is Angel’s voice and all we have for the opening stretch of the novel is Rowland’s editor’s push for too much exposition.
White Trash Zombie Apocalypse is a transitional book in a young series that might open up a world of new possibilities for the existing characters. The effect here is totally underwhelming. Fans of the series will survive off of a few interesting action set-pieces and a strong conclusion, but new readers would do better to start with the first book before diving in with the Reader’s Digest edition of the first two books followed by a bland new story.
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