Title: Happy Hour of the Damned
Author: Mark Henry
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Zombies, Comedy
Publisher: Kensington Press
Publication Date: March 2008
Trade Paperback: 288 Pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Amanda Feral series (currently 2 books strong).
Why did I read this book: I’ve actually had this on my TBR since it first came out last year–only I repeatedly put it off because Ana and I wanted to save it for Halloween week, then when we didn’t have enough time during Halloween week, we decided to save it for Zombie week. So, finally, here we are, and just in time for the release of book 2 in the series, Road Trip of the Living Dead.
Summary: (from Amazon.com)
Seattle. One minute you’re drinking a vanilla breve, the next, some creepy old dude is breathing on you, turning you into a zombie. And that’s just for starters. Now, the recently deceased Amanda Feral is trying to make her way through Seattle’s undead scene with style (mortuary-grade makeup, six-inch stilettos, Balenciaga handbag on sale) while satisfying her craving for human flesh (Don’t judge. And no, not like chicken.) and decent vodkatinis.
Making her way through a dangerous world of cloud-doped bloodsuckers, reapers, horny and horned devils, werewolves, celebrities, and PR-obsessed shapeshifters–not to mention an extremely hot bartender named Ricardo–isn’t easy. And the minute one of Amanda’s undead friends disappears after texting the word, “help” (The undead–so dramatic!) she knows the afterlife is about to get really ugly.
Something sinister is at hand. Someone or something is hellbent on turning Seattle’s undead underworld into a place of true terror. And this time, Amanda may meet a fate a lot worse than death…
Irreverent. Rapacious. Hilarious.
This is how I would describe Mark Henry’s debut novel, Happy Hour of the Damned. Bitchy socialite Amanda Feral has an appetite for sexy men, strong cocktails, and, oh yes, human flesh. After acing her last advertising pitch at work, Amanda finds herself trapped in an elevator with a creepy guy who breathes on her (eww). The next thing she knows, she slips on an empty donut box, cracks her head on the oil-slicked parking lot pavement, and wakes up as a new member of Seattle’s undead. As a newborn zombie, Amanda has some serious issues to deal with: how to prevent her boyfriend from noticing her cold undead-ness; how to get makeup strong enough to cover up her gray dead flesh (and look every bit the hot mama she is); where the next undead hotspot will be; how to satiate her neverending craving for humans. With her new friends Gil (the typically gorgeous and completely gay vampire) and fellow fabulously hot (and equally bitchy) zombie Wendy, Amanda takes Seattle’s underworld scene by storm. When one of the crew’s other regular drinking buddies sends Amanda a text message saying “Help,” and turns up missing, Amanda has her hands full trying to stop a nefarious scheme to bring about the actual zombie apocalypse.
I love the wonderful, crass bitch that is Amanda Feral. The biggest strength of this novel lies in Mark Henry’s hilarious voice, and his almost blasé way of pushing the envelope with his characters. Amanda is probably one of the snarkiest, refreshingly bitchy characters in Urban Fantasy today–think Carrie Bradshaw meets Regina George from Mean Girls. She’s unapologetically rude, thrust into a glamorous new life-after-death and loving it (as a bulimic human, Amanda’s weight problems have been solved in her zombie status). There are some moments when we catch glimpses of Amanda’s softer side:
I remembered daydreaming about becoming the fifth in their elite group, stalking the halls like jungle cats, trailing fear and jealousy. It was never to be, of course. Four years together and never closer than twenty feet. I used to wonder what they did outside of school. What amazing adventures were entitled to the most popular? I thought they could probably do anything they wanted. I fantasized that they each held a license to torture, maim, kill, or at least, mock, shame and denigrate.
Could I be reliving this fantasy? Was that the real reason for gathering this particular group of killers, albeit far more glamorous than Carly and her bitches could dream of? Where did such a desperate longing for companionship come from? Had it been there all along?
This passage along with allusions to Amanda’s relationship with her cold mother also seem to shape why she is such a materialistic ass today. But that’s not really the fun with her character. The beauty of Amanda’s character is that while she does care about her girls, she’s an unrelenting, superior, haughty biatch. Even as a human, she was shallow as hell, faking her resume to get a job at a top ad agency–and yet she’s not completely vapid a la Paris Hilton–she’s worked hard to make her success and her partnership, which is something. The other two main characters, Wendy and Gil, are Amanda’s girls through and through–equally bitchy and elitist, as the best, hottest socialites are. The interactions with these three characters, boozing it up together are hilarious good fun.
Amanda and Wendy, circa 2080
The whole book drips with acid snarkiness, a dark parody of brand-happy chicklit with a healthy dose of (literally) poopy jokes and morbid humor. I can’t count the number of times I sat, book in hand, jaw wide open, completely scandalized. How does a zombie have sex? With a crazy amount of lube. How does a zombie eat anything other than human? By keeping a pair of Depends (that’s adult diapers) handy. Mark Henry’s take on zombie lore is intriguing, more in a sort of “Death Becomes Her” type of vein (once a zombie, always a zombie–if you get a scratch or a broken bone, you cannot fix it without industrial glue and paint). And, like the best zombies, Amanda and Wendy binge together, luring in vagrants, adolescent runaways, skeevy college losers, etc. Another cool twist is that zombies can drink alcohol–which makes for much more fun evenings out.
While the characters and ‘world-building’ (as it were) are wonderfully fresh, as an actual story, Happy Hour of the Damned isn’t quite as entertaining. The plot of the novel jumps from present day to back when Amanda was first made a zombie, then jumps back to the present and plays with two sort of unrelated “main” conflicts–Amanda’s missing friend and a larger conspiracy. Both of these conflicts feel underdeveloped and awkwardly cobbled together (one of these conflicts is completely unnecessary). I honestly found myself wanting to read more about Amanda’s early days as a zombie and how she became accustomed to her new life and friends as opposed to the less engaging mystery storyline. Not that the central conflict was bad, but I felt it could have been developed in a later novel, or perhaps had the book been longer and less sporadic in the conflict narrative, it would have been much more effective.
These plotting issues aside, I loved the tone of this book and found it incredibly entertaining. I’ll be back for seconds. Definitely.
Notable Quotes/Parts: Poopy humor at its absolute finest.
I found Wendy in the bathroom, behind the vibrating stainless steel walls,shaking with the pulsing bass. She was shitting her bowels out, into a rarely used club toilet. I didn’t envy her position, but I imagined it well, hunched over and rocking. You know the drill…
“I’ve got a real impulse control problem. I feel like one of those damned mistakes.” A low belch echoed from Wendy’s rotting bowels, filling the room with a pungent sulfur scent mixed with earthy death, a zombie meat fart.
And zombies on the prowl…
“We’re gonna eat this asshole, right?” Wendy was locked on target, and assholes were totally on the list. In fact, let this be a warning: there are those among you who view exposed vehicular feet as an invitation to dine. Don’t let a need to be lax while driving be your death sentence. Actually, that goes for passenger feet, too.
“Well, you can have the asshole, but, yeah–” I stopped in mid-thought, remembering the dirty feet, then quickly added, “Heads.”
“Fuck you! You got heads last time. Besides I know what you’re thinking and those feet were nasty.”
“Okay, okay, split down the middle then and I’ll get our next one on my own.” She sighed at this and seemed to relax into the seat. Wendy appreciated nothing more than an easy kill, particularly if I was the one doing all the work.
Verdict: Chicklit gets zombified in this awesomely gross, funny novel. Happy Hour of the Damned is a guilty pleasure, and I cannot wait for the sequel.
Rating: 7 Very Good