Plagued: The Rock Island Zombie Counteractant Experiment (Plagued States of America #2) by Better Hero Army
Mason is a soldier with a new posting – to one of the remaining settlements in the plague states, one of only two places left where zombie slaves are captured and sold into the US. It’s not a reward – this is where the screw ups go, those who need to be shuffled out of view and Mason, with his record in Egypt and his PTSD, is a prime candidate
Someone else also thought so – but not to guard zombies in cells, but to be part of a plot to change how zombies are treated and finally reclaim the plagued states. Mason is an essential cog in that plan
And, possibly, a disposable one.
This book, like the first book in the series, is short – very short. But it isn’t written like a short story.
So we have a long introduction, a recap to the world, some excellent characterisation, some great world building, lots of slowly built foreshadowing, some devious hints to the world… all of it is building at a nice steady and ominous rate. It’s really well done…
…then the REST of the plot and the action and actual stuff happening is rammed in with a crowbar, fastforwarded to 20x speed and is a blur of barely understood, slightly incomprehensible splurge. It’s one of those books where I wonder if a deadline was looming because it was all nice and steady then it was zomg finish it! Finish it! No, I don’t have time to explain that it, just happened – characterisation? Gah, just throw in a random doctor, she’ll do – explosions! More explosions! MOAR EXPLOSIONS! And half-breeds and escape through doors which are open and throw in a flashback and memory loss – there, done!
Those last two also didn’t help. The protagonist has had a traumatic experience as a soldier in Egypt and many references are made throughout the book. He also speculates a lot on why other soldiers are dispatched to this posting and what they could have done wrong. Then, because of the plot, he suffers an injury that shakes his memory and causes confusion and makes him mistake the other soldiers for people from his past which adds to an odd moment which seems to be telling the current plot as a flashback from the future (I didn’t quite get it. It could have been talking about events from the previous book and have been a memory?). It’s probably pretty clear that I had trouble following – confused memories and fast pacing combine to completely lose me.
At the end, I kind of get what happened by piecing everything together. And the plot is a fascinating and a crafty one. We get to hear a lot more of the world and how the US has suffered by having so many states given over to zombies as well as the attempt to restore those areas – which means clearing out the zombies. And part of that will inevitably mean stopping the new slave trade that depends on the zombies both as a plain moral imperative (which is clearly seen) but also to gather sufficient impetus to actually seeking and implementing a mass cure for zombiedom. But on top of that is the conflict of chosen methods – and how much does the end justify the means even when ending such a vile practice? Especially when the “good guys” feel like a nefarious cabal.