Kensington, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-7582-2526-9
A big part of my disappointment with Mark Henry’s Battle of the Network Zombies is that I am expecting a farce set in the world of reality TV, as the promotional material led me to believe, only to get a slow burn Murder, She Wrote-style of mystery coupled with the usual gore, gross-out humor, and tasteless cracks that Mr Henry has perfected to an art form.
Amanda Feral is back in her third outing, but this story can be read pretty well as a standalone affair, I feel. This time around, Amanda is broke. Her advertising agency isn’t pulling in as much revenue as needed to support the lifestyle of a socialite darling like her. As you can tell if you have read the previous two books, Amanda’s constant run-ins with trouble also necessitates a considerable amount of reparative surgery at the Reapers’ HQ, and the Reapers are now impatient to get paid. Not only that, Amanda’s business partner Elizabeth Karkaroff wants Amanda to pay back the share of money Elizabeth has invested into the business should it go under, and Amanda doesn’t want to get into the bad books of the Queen of the Underworld.
Therefore, when Amanda is invited to become the Simon Cowell on a panel of judges for the hot new spook reality show American Minions, she jumps at the opportunity to make some money. This is a Bachelor-style show where spooks compete to be TV hot celebrity Johnny Birch’s latest amour, with Amanda in the panel of judges to critique the candidates. Unfortunately, Johnny is found charred shortly before Amanda is poised to give Kim Kardashian a run for the money. Never mind, Amanda decides to keep the show going, only this time, she will be the star of a reality show as she solves in real time the murder of Johnny Birch!
The problem here is that the above synopsis, which is pretty much in sync with the official synopsis given by the publisher, already describes a little bit more than half of the story. The story moves too slowly for my liking, with the reality TV thing is only a backdrop for Amanda’s soap opera. You see, I was expecting something amusing about zombies on reality TV, with some satirical elements poking fun at shows like Big Brother or American Idol, so in the end I find myself disappointed when this story fails to completely capitalize on the reality TV premise.
What concerns me as well as is the fact that Amanda reminds stupidly oblivious to a very obvious tell-tale sign of the Yeti’s identity. I can tell at once who the Yeti is, but Amanda takes nearly forever to catch up. I know Amanda is a selfish, bitchy, self-absorbed, opportunist, and not very bright ghoul, but I hope that darling doesn’t make it a practice to become always the last to know when it comes to things.
On the bright side, if you like this author’s sense of humor, like I do, there is plenty of the same here to enjoy. This book contains many hilarious moments, although I have to warn you guys: there are plenty of gross and scatalogical humor. If you don’t cozy up to the author in a previous book, chances are this book will not change your mind anytime soon. The secondary characters are still too amusing. I don’t know why Wendy keeps sticking to Amanda – she is easily the most abused best friend I’ve come across in any story – but I’m starting to find her and her eating disorder more interesting than Amanda. Amanda’s mother is fabulous and I love how she and Amanda bring out the worst in each other, Gil is still Gil, and while I really shouldn’t, I must confess that I find the Indian cab driver too hilarious.
To conclude, Battle of the Network Zombies could have been a solid entry into the series. The gore-drenched last few chapters are a thing of beauty, especially. However, for far too long the story doesn’t seem to know where it should be going, and by doing so, it fails to fully capitalize on its unique setting. A plot that sees the heroine taking way too long to catch up with the reader doesn’t help as well.