Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Dead Kitties Don't Purr by Amber Green

Dead Kitties Don't Purr by Amber Green is a contemporary horror, about the crumbling of society into a more hellish dystopia under the onslaught of a dreadful zombie virus. But mostly, it's the first love, desperate romance and firsthand experience of one girl when one city starts to fall before the virus.

We follow the first romance and survival of Camie, as the wave of a zombie virus reaches her university, just after she falls in love (of course) and her life falls into chaos and into a state of siege. It was a pretty short book, and I wasn't too impressed with the first third, but by the end, I was really into it. The actual ending was a bit of a cop out though, with everything wrapping up suddenly in about a page.

This was both a very light and a pretty hard hitting story. I know that's a bit of a contradiction! Basically, the story was skimpy, the romance felt underdeveloped, but the horror was real, and what there was, held together very well. It also makes up about 20% of all existing lesbian zombie books and is part of the Lesbians vs. Zombies series being published by Noble Romance (which has more coming out, so there that proportion will decrease pretty sharply!). It would probably shine in an anthology, once the books in the series are all out (should there be one), or else read along with the other stories (which I haven't read yet).

Camie is the twin sister of a famous singer, complete with emotional scars from her lack of musical talent, and being overshadowed by her sister. She's withdrawn; a combination of self sufficiency and social inexperience, and is swept away by the lovely, smart Risa. Risa's a generally nice person; she doesn't get a lot of character development until near the end, but we see her through Camie's eyes, and to Camie, she's basically perfect. Shortly after they fall into lust with each other (or tender first love; we don't really get a chance to find out which), the situation degenerates, the z-virus starts infecting people in the vicinity in a fairly major way, the state borders are closed and the National Guard moves in... the story becomes all about Camie getting safely away from the danger zone and back to Risa, and then surviving under siege until either they get rescued, or starve to death.

Our zombies are the mad science mutated virus type; a mutated version of rabies, in which our infected zombies become superstrong morons who are hypersensitive and readily triggered into rampages of complete destruction. The word 'zombie; was never used. I felt like the characters were avoiding the word; I'm not sure if they were supposed to be, but it seemed like an obvious word to have sprung into everyone's social awareness, but nobody wanted to say it because they were scared enough already (the official explanation is that the virus mutated from x through y to z versions).

The 'light' part of the story is firstly that it's pretty short, and secondly, that the focus was so incredibly narrow. It was all through the immediate viewpoint of our main character; immediate, in that we only learnt about what was going on if she happened to be thinking about it. So the world building leaked out slowly over time; half really effective, half frustrating. And she spent a lot of time thinking about her sibling rivalry issues, which... really, detracted from the story.

The romance happened pretty fast; shy and inexperienced Camie falls pretty much instantly for older, more worldy Risa. The siege mentality they are in throws them pretty firmly together, and Camie transfers her emotional allegiances instantly, moving her stuff almost as soon as she meets Risa. This makes quite a bit of sense as we learn how unstable everything is, and how aware Camie is of the various dangers, but it happened pretty fast, and then we didn't really get much 'romance'. After the first flush of attraction settled down, they did seem to be clinging together as much because they were each other's best chance of survival and sanity as because they were madly in love.

 She is delightfully, realisitically insecure when they do end up in bed; again, Risa is very much the experienced, ideal lover. There's not much sex, though; this isn't an 'oh no, danger, let us defy it with passionate lovemaking' story, this is an 'oh god, danger, let us huddle together in shock and try and survive' type of story (it's marketed as an Erotic Romance; frankly, I think that's doing it a disservice). Once things start falling apart, our characters are scared. Terrified. Except when they're just being determined and pretending they're fine for the sake of each other.

Essentially, it felt like a chapter's worth of story, but the actual plot arc was fairly complete. Pick it up as light reading. And by 'light', I mean 'quick'. It starts out fairly innocuous, but gets harrowing pretty fast (my standards for 'harrowing' are pretty low though. I do not like horror, and this became one long horror film of the 'something might jump out at any minute' type, made worse by the fact that everything was still almost normal). Horrible things wise, most of it was off screen; knowing that people were being killed elsewhere, or probably starving, and rioting, and panicking. Our protagonist spent a fair bit of time hiding, being all rational and remote (it felt like a coping strategy), and the only real violence we actually encounter is a post-Zombie rampage scene, and later, a murder between named characters.

The ending was a sort of 'everything's suddenly solved' lite happy ever after, but was also, if you stopped and thought about it, no kind of happy ever after at all. Their world was going to hell in a handbasket. It was this weird, painful, terribly identifiable schizophrenic attempt to continue with life as normal (university, a band, old people's homes, love lives, internet), while simultaenously being utterly paranoid, stockpiling food, getting shot by the police for acting suspicious and waiting for the inevitable rampage of death and destruction. And the internet was up randomly - an hour a day, or more, or not for days. There was no internet for days. The horror. Actually, the technology was well integrated into the story; from the unreliable internet to the constant checking of her phone, it was neither a prop for the plot, nor a case of 'why didn't you just Google it/ring/insert technology usage here...?' irritation.

It was a generally terrifying, upsetting and all around horrible situation. It was a bloody good and harrowing glimpse into what a real zombie terrorism virus government crackdown would look like, with everyone desperately pretending it would be okay, while they were cut off and quarantined and ran out of food and stopped trusting anyone. And aggh! The poor kitties. The kitties of the title were real ones; they can carry the virus too, so pet cats featured a couple of times, in both tragic and cute ways.

Formatting, grammar and technical stuff
There weren't really any typoes (maybe one or two, but nothing I really noticed), which was great. What wasn't great, and really made it difficult to get into initially, was the fact that there was a line break between every single paragraph. I don't know if this was just one of those formatting issues that end up where they shouldn't, or a deliberate attempt to pad out the page count, but it was really, freaking, annoying.

Dead Kitties Don't Purr is currently available on Amazon as a kindle eBook, along with the rest of the Lesbians vs. Zombies series. All the books to date have been well reviewed, and are a similar length and price (If I'd paid $10, I'd have felt cheated, but as it's currently available at $3, I'd say it's definitely worth it).

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