Title: Plague Nation
Author: Dana Fredsti
Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 26 April 2013
The undead have been defeated in Redwood Grove, but reports of similar outbreaks are coming in. What seemed to be an isolated event is turning into a pandemic.
The last thing Ashley Parker wanted when she went to college was to become a zombie hunter. But she is one of a select few who are immune to the virus. Gifted with enhanced speed, strength, and senses, she’s recruited by a shadowy organization that’s existed for centuries, its sole purpose to combat the zombie threat.
Dark secrets begin to emerge, and when an unknown enemy strikes, Ashley and the other wild cards embark on a desperate mission to reach San Francisco. If they fail, the plague will sweep the nation unchecked. And the person she cares for most may die. Or worse.
Plague Nation is the second book in Dana Fredsti’s Ashley Parker trilogy, following 2012’s Plague Town. As the title suggests, this follows the usual sequel rule of supersizing what went before. There is more action, higher stakes and a much higher body count.
Where Plague Town suffered a bit from small-town syndrome and lacked a sense of real danger (though if you’re a newcomer, I’d still recommend going back and reading Plague Town first) the sequel succeeds in being bigger and better. This is partly due to our heroine being in the thick of it from the start and the action being moved out of Redwood Grove. As in Plague Town, there are Stephen King-esque thumbnail sketches of characters, but this time in other cities across the US, which gives Plague Nation a really apocalyptic feel. There’s also an incredibly shocking incident quite early on in the book. It’s clear that nobody is safe.
There is plenty of blood and guts for the gorehounds, too. Fredsti has a background in theatrical sword fighting, and it shows in her writing; Ashley’s weapon of choice is a katana and she obviously knows how to use it. I was also pleased to see that Jake, a character who is responsible for the most horrifying scene in Plague Town, makes a memorable reappearance.
With the loss of some characters, we’re introduced to more. There are three in particular who I’m looking forward to reading more about; G, a geek’s geek who had his own Batcave bedroom; freerunner JT; and Griff, who looks like he might be the bad guy equivalent of Ashley’s love interest Gabriel.
The conspiracy theory hinted at in Plague Town is built on nicely here. It’s unclear how deliberately spreading Walker’s Flu could work for anyone’s benefit without a cure ready and waiting so I’m intrigued to see where this arc goes.
There’s a distinct Buffy meets The Walking Dead vibe about the Ashley Parker books which I really enjoyed. Ashley herself has a never-ending supply of quips, and there are quote-offs and pop culture references galore from other characters who proudly wear their geek badges on their sleeves. These books are clearly written by a geek, for geeks. They don’t have the gritty realism of World War Z, but they are a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what the forthcoming final book, Plague World, has in store.