Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review - "Battle of the Network Zombies" by Mark Henry

Book Description:
In Seattle's undead circles, Amanda Feral is one of the beautiful zombies. Of course, when you're socializing with werewolves, devils, and rampaging yetis, there's not that much competition. Still, Amanda has a stylish rep to maintain, which is getting tricky now that her tanking ad agency is obliterating her finances. The fastest way to make some cash: appear on a new reality show, American Minions, hosted by lecherous wood nymph Johnny Birch. Classy? Maybe not, but a girl's gotta eat.

With zombie gal pal Wendy posing as her bitchy agent, Amanda settles in to "Minions Mansion," crowded with 24-7 video cameras and undead fame whores. When Johnny is found incinerated in a locked room, Amanda decides to channel her inner Miss Marple (minus the fugly cardigans) and find out who's responsible. Was it Hairy Sue, the white trash stripper yeti? Tanesha, the glamorous trannie werewolf? Angie, the Filipino vampire with a detachable head? Unveiling the culprit in a heart-stopping finale won't just save the show from cancellation, it might just keep Amanda alive—or as close as a ghoul can get...
Battle of the Network Zombies is the third outing for Amanda Feral and company and Mark Henry's raucous, irreverant humour continues to titillate and entertain. The author drives his screwball comedy at a relentless pace. The comedian Lenny Bruce said, “The role of a comedian is to make the audience laugh, at a minimum of once every fifteen seconds.” While I didn't always laugh out loud every 15 seconds, I probably snickered at least twice per page and at nearly 300 pages that's a lot of snickering.

The slapstick in Battle of the Network Zombies takes on reality TV shows to fine affect, with an outrageous cast of characters as you can clearly see from the blurb above. Johnny Birch, the show host, is a piece of work as observed by Amanda at their first meeting -
I began to understand how the little horndog got laid with such frequency—you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing him slobbering over some flavor of the week as if she were a scoop of dark chocolate chip.10
To further enhance the comedic effect, Mark Henry makes use of the "fourth wall" by using frequent footnotes to allow Amanda to speak directly to the reader (Books 1 and 2 also used this device). These notes are rarely pertinent to the plot, but generate more than a few snickers of their own and allow even more of Amanda's snarky and gossipy personality to shine through. Here's the footnote to the quote above -
10 Yes. That was a jab at the notoriously freckled and obscenely overpaid dancer Marisha Detlove. Word is Birch screwed her out of a very publicly disclosed virginity and a small fortune in LladrĂ³ figurines in a bizarre sex-related accident. The news was less than specific, however.
Each chapter of the book leads with a creative faux television guide description of a "supernatural" world reality show. Here's a couple I quite liked (network executives should pay attention, this is better stuff than what is on the real tube these days)-

While there is quite a bit of fast-paced repartee, the action in Battle of the Network Zombies can go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds. A polite conversation in a bar can erupt into a full-blown brawl of supes and a death count of dozens within minutes. Amanda mostly takes it in stride, but this time around we fnd that she is much more cautious because after all, damage to a zombies body is permanent unless you can afford the services of the Reapers which clearly Amanda cannot. This manifests itself in one of my favourite scenes in the book, truly highlighting Amanda's sense of self-preservation and self-absorption,. In this excerpt, Amanda and BFF Wendy need to cross a patch of possibly dangerous sand -
That’s why this next part is a little sketchy on the integrity side. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wendy. She’s my best friend and I wouldn’t trade her in for anything. But when I saw the gap between the last two patches of morning glory, there was nothing else I could do.
“Yes?” She held on to my arm and looked around my shoulder.“
Wow.That’s a long way. Good luck with that one.”
“Why don’t you lay down between them and I’ll just tiptoe across? Easy as can be?”
“What?” She glared.“Are you fucking nuts?”
I shrugged.“It’s not like you’re going to die.You might sink a little bit but really it’s nothing more than a nice salt scrub.Your face will look as fresh as a five-year-old’s. Swear to God.” I knew nothing of the sort, of course. But I figured that even if she sank to the bottom,we could always come back and dig her out after it was all over. It’s not like she had to breathe, and I could probably do my own camera work.
She grimaced at the expanse of sand. “And you’ll pull me right out?”
“The second I get across. No shit.”
She crouched down to her knees and eyed me suspiciously.
“Right out?”
I snatched the camera from her hand. “Absolutely. But let’s do it quick so you won’t sink very far.”
Her eyes widened and she stiffened. I couldn’t let her ruin this chance, so I did something I’m not proud of. I pushed her over. She fell with a muffled thud onto her stomach, her face buried in a pillowy hillock. It was really sort of amusing as long as you weren’t Wendy.
Before she could react, I padded as softly and quickly as I could once onto her ass and then—God help me—the back of her head, forcing her face back into the sand.When I reached the final patch of morning glories,Wendy was thrashing atop the sand, not having sunk an inch. Hellary howled with laughter, doubled over and wheezing.
I reached down and pulled my friend—no, scratch that—my best friend, to her feet.
“You’re a hero,” I said.
Her face was scrunched in anger.
“You’re my hero,” I emphasized, nodding my head aggressively.“ Saved my life, and I’ll tell everyone so.”
Personally I hope Mark Henry's next book is titled Wendy's Revenge. On the softer side of things, Amanda's relationship with her werewolf boyfriend takes on some surprising twists and turns and Amanda shows some vulnerability in a nice contrast to her normal behaviour. The book concludes with an Appendix which is really a short story flashback to Amanda's home life as a teen, where you can see the planting of the seeds that grew into the current Amanda.

The Battle of the Network Zombies is the best in the series to date. If you liked the first two books, purchasing this one is a no-brainer (I had to work in at least one brains reference).  If you haven't tried the series yet, don't be afraid to step onto the path less-taken and give Battle of the Network Zombies a chance. Yes it is often politically incorrect, foul mouthed, rude, gross and many other obnoxious things (and that's bad?), but it is also smart, funny and time well spent.


Kensington Publishing
Published: February 23, 2010
Format:: Paperback
Pages: 288
ISBN #: 9780758225269

Amanda Feral Ghoul Series:
  1. Happy Hour of the Damned (2008)
  2. Road Trip of the Living Dead (2009)
  3. Battle of the Network Zombies (2010)


  1. Great review. The first one is on my shelf, I am going to read it. I just have to prepare myself mentally, I am not a huge fan of zombies or gross.

  2. Nice review! (footnotes is the fourth wall? I never heard that!)

    Okay, I am richly looking forward to this one. I love when good series just get better and better like this.

  3. Oh man Doug, I was laughing just reading the excerpts in your review. I can't wait for this one. Really I can't. Are you having a contest when Mark visits? "Luck be a lady tonight..."

  4. In the third installment of the Amanda Feral series Amanda is back, dirtier than ever. Her ad agency is on a downward spiral and her expense budget is in the toilet. In order to keep her condo and pay off her debt to the Reapers Amanda says yes to an opportunity to appear on a new reality show.


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