Lust After Death by Daisy Harris
|Ellora's Cave, 2011|
Beyond watching Resident Evil movies, I never cared much for zombies. Lack of interest, really. I always felt that once you looked past the shuffling mob of flesh-eating corpses, there wasn't a whole lot of potential. A dead-end theme, if you'll forgive the pun. So I haven't been engaged with the latest trend of books, comics, and movies. Zombies are the new vampires, dontcha know.
Then I came across this title from Daisy Harris's "Love-Bots" series. It was a lark, really. Read it just so I can say I did, I thought. However, Lust After Death has opened my eyes up to the potential of this subgenre, and I just may have to get on the bandwagon.
The book opens with Josie, a recently made zombie bride. Her former life is a lost memory, as is everything she knew before she was recreated to be a man's illicit companion. Now all she knows is her "husband" and the island home where he keeps her secluded from the world.
Enter Bane Conner. He, too, is a zombie -- or stein, as they are called. He was created to be an assassin and a soldier. The blood on his hands was never by choice, and now he works for an underground organizations that rescue steins from their forced existences. He was sent to save Josie from her captor. He was supposed to bring her to safety and help her build a new life. He wasn't supposed to fall for her.
Soon they're on the run from people that would force them back into servitude. Bane must protect Josie while, at the same time, protecting his heart from emotions he's not prepared to face.
This book was instantly interesting and held my attention from the very start to the very end. The first thing that struck me was how I got an immediate sense of the characters -- the captive heroine who may be helpless but isn't a dumb damsel. The hostile hero who's driven to save the world even though his weary soul just wants to rest. I found it to be a lovely and appealing pairing. But what I liked most about this book was the world Harris created. It was fresh and creative, yet reminiscent of some of my favorite PNR authors like Gena Showalter and Laurann Dohner.
And now the big question:
Can zombies really be sexy?
Well, apparently so. Especially since Daisy Harris spares us from the rotting flesh, rigor mortis, and drooling that one usually expects from the undead. Her zombies are not unlike cyborgs, programmed pseudo-humans caught between life and unlife. There was still some flesh-eating, which I thought was a nice touch. And Harris doesn't run from the fact that her characters are unnaturally reanimated bodies. But with no rotting, no shuffling limbs... You get the edge without the ick. So, success! I read about zombies getting it on without Getting squicked out! A new milestone.
I'll admit that this book wasn't a hole in one. A couple of issues did stand out to me. Josie, for instance, was a stumbling block here and there. Written to have a near-adolescent perspective, she wasn't always the most accessible character. Bane, in contrast, came through more tangibly; his character and actions were more nuanced, more complete, and easier to connect to. In addition, there were one or two narrative rough patches where the action didn't progress cleanly. Nothing that impedes the reading flow for more than a second.
Overall, this book is delicious fun. A dash of action, a touch of angst, a strong dose of sex... It's the perfect recipe for a good read. So, while I won't promise to be an instant convert, I'll give the zombie craze another look.
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