Diana Rowland: My Life As A White Trash Zombie

When Angel Crawford wakes up in the hospital, she assumes it’s because of the car crash only she remembers. The official story, however, is that she was found naked and overdosing on a cocktail of drugs and booze. By all rights, she should be dead. Somehow, she’s not. Upon being released from the hospital, she’s given an unsigned note informing her that she has a new job: Van driver for the local coroner’s office. If she doesn’t take it, and keep it for a month, she’ll end up in jail for violating her probation, and will almost certainly die as a result.

Now, in order to stay alive and out of jail, Angel’s spending her working hours with the dead. And guess what? She’s craving brains. Nice, fresh, juicy brains. Yup. She’s a zombie, and she needs to chow down on some good old-fashioned human brain-meats, or she’ll finish the job the overdose started. Slowly coming to terms with her new status and abilities, she gets a feel for the local zombie sub-culture, and starts to clean up her dead-end life. No more booze and drugs for her, now that they don’t do any good. Unfortunately, there’s something else out there in the wilds of Louisiana, a killer who specializes in decapitations. How can Angel eat brains, when the corpses don’t even have any? And how long can she keep up her new life before she somehow ruins it all?

Rowland’s story is instantly engaging, and more than a little weird. I wasn’t prepared to like Angel, at first. By her own admission, she’s a three-time loser, a pill-popping convicted felon with an alcoholic father and a sleazy boyfriend. Not exactly an intuitive choice for a heroine, right? Only Angel’s a complex, sympathetic, nuanced character. Well-aware of her status, and all too familiar with society’s disapproval, she’s just someone who hit bottom and never saw a reason to dig herself out. The events of this book give her the motivation, and the opportunity for redemption, and in the process, they make her one of the more compelling protagonists I’ve seen lately. Rowland balances out black humor with self-awareness, and never lets Angel wallow too much in self-pity or angst.

It helps that the setting–the bayous of Louisiana–is atmospheric, full of potential and local flavor. Also, Rowland doesn’t over-complicate things. There are zombies, and they eat human brains, and if they don’t, bad things happen. Some are decent, some are jerks, and some are shrewd businesspeople, creating their own brain-driven economy. It’s all pretty cool, and smoothly executed. I’d love to see more of Angel and the other characters who populate this world. And I never thought I’d be rooting for a white trash redneck zombie chick. This is a series I can definitely enjoy. Give it a shot.

(DAW, 2011)

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