Book Review: How the White Trash Zombie got her Groove Back by Diana Rowland

It’s not easy being a White Trash Zombie.White trash zombie

One Angel Crawford, self-professed white trash zombie from the swamps of southern Louisiana, has come a long way from her days as a pain-pill-addicted high school dropout with a budding felony record.

The fourth installment of Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series finds Angel trying to kick back, relax, and maybe even think about college. And who can blame her after a year highlighted by murder, kidnapping, evil corporations using local zombie movie extras as test subjects, the escapades of her alcoholic, deadbeat dad, and of course run-ins with the local zombie mafia.

Yes, that’s right, the zombie mafia.

But, when key members of the local zombie community go missing, Angel has no choice but to get involved. She’s certain Saberton Corporation, who she’s had dealings with before is behind the disappearances, yet she can’t shake the sense that a far deeper conspiracy is at work. With the small band of friends she can trust, Angel strikes out to track down the missing zombies and continues to try and redefine herself as something other than trailer trash- a profoundly difficult feat and all to familiar in our age of multimedia.

For those not familiar with Diana Rowland, she is the author of both the Kara Gillian and White Trash Zombie urban fantasy series. She’s also known for having had an eclectic career path over the years. She’s been a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, a morgue assistant, bartender, blackjack dealer, and a pit boss. In 2005, Diana placed first in the third quarter of the Writers of the Future contest for her short story ‘Schrödinger’s Hummingbird’ and since then she’s had both series nominated for RT Reviewer’s Choice awards and won Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist in 2013 for Angel.

So, having said, that how does the fourth White Trash Zombie installment measure up to the rest of the series?

Short answer; I think Diana’s fans are going to be happy. One of the biggest challenges with any series is how to keep the story and characters fresh while moving the overall story arc along, and in the current publishing environment authors don’t always know if they’ll get the chance.

Without leading into any spoilers, we see Angel maturing as a character but still struggling to fit into her new life (not the zombie aspect- she’s got that down pat). In particular we see her struggling with her perception of herself; that of a drop out loser who doesn’t deserve a second chance in life. Diana has a deft way of showing with Angel the challenges of someone who is trying their best and still just barely scraping by, and spends a lot of time wondering if that’s the universe’s way of telling them that’s all they deserve. This time Angel has to come to grips with the fact that the only person keeping Angel in the trailer is Angel.

The WTZ series has hit its stride and here Diana juggles the task of growing her protagonist, Angel, tying off some of the major series arcs while introducing new ones. It’s a tricky balance to strike in the midpoint of any series and is a task a lot of authors fail in.

I also think Diana succeeds in managing to keep Angel ‘fresh’ (I know there’s a zombie pun in there somewhere…) while striking a balance with moving the over arcing story along. Again, something other authors can struggle with. She knows where she’s taking the series and manages to convince the reader they’re in safe hands.

Although this is a series that I highly recommend urban fantasy fans check out, I caution against starting the series here. Sometimes starting a series in the middle works and Diana certainly includes enough background that you could and not be lost, but since book four sees a lot of personal growth for Angel (including a cross country zombie road trip) which, while necessary for the series to continue and flourish, may turn away reader’s who aren’t yet emotionally invested in Angel – and that would be a shame because the series is full of action packed urban fantasy mystery punctuated by Diana’s sharp humor. Where some lower tier urban fantasy reads thin, this series doesn’t. Very much like Angel herself, this series has more substance under the hood than the title would indicate.

Also, while this installment is fast paced, it doesn’t have the bang and immediacy that the other three books did- and that’s fine. I think the series needed it for plot lines from the first three books to be tied up. We also get some great glimpses into conflicts to come.

One way or another Angel is moving out of her white trash routes…while eating brains…and kicking ass.

Full disclosure: I know Diana. As a geneticist and molecular biologist I have on occasion talked zombie science with Diana and helped with some of the technical challenges posed by…well, being a zombie. If you have read the series you may or may not have noticed one of the villains is named Dr. Kristi Charish. She is absolutely named after me. That aside, I kept the review as impartial as possible and purchased my review copy out of my own pocket.

You can check out an interview with Diana from our archives, Podcast #101.
Kristi Charish

Kristi Charish – AISFP Contributor

Kristi is a scientist and science fiction/urban fantasy author who resides in Vancouver, Canada. The first installment in her debut urban fantasy series, OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS, is scheduled for release Jan 2015 through Simon & Schuster Canada/Pocket Books.

She received her BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and her PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.

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