Wayne Simmons, Doll Parts (Snowbooks, 2012)
Drop Dead Gorgeous remains, to date, my favorite Wayne Simmons novel, a fun, original take on the zombie that made honorable mention on my Best Reads of the Year list in 2010 and finished up pretty much crying out for a sequel. Well, that sequel is here, it’s called Doll Parts, and damned if it isn’t almost as good as the first one. It’s a little more on the traditional-zombie-novel side of things than Drop Dead Gorgeous was—Simmons wasn’t trying to push any envelopes here the way he was in the first book—but he turns about and shows us that he is equally capable of writing the kind of fast-paced survival thriller structure that forms most zombie novels, and doing it just as well.
Plot: when we last left what remained of our ragtag band of survivors in Drop Dead Gorgeous, they were stuck in a town square surrounded by the ravenous—and totally freakin’ hot—undead. As is often the case with cliffhangers along these lines, the first question is how they’re going to get out of this situation. (One of the reasons I am most looking forward to 28 Months Later…, assuming we ever get it, is because Danny Boyle gave his survivors a pretty impossible task in that regard at the end of Weeks.) Suffice to say they do; if they didn’t, this would be a short novel indeed. They get wind of another band of survivors who have set up a well-defended position at the city’s airport, on the outskirts of town, and head there, finding other bands of survivors and battling the undead along the way. But, as you are well aware if you’ve consumed any half-dozen random pieces of zombie media, the undead are far from the only predators roaming any given post-apocalyptic world…
If you liked DDG for its realistic, complex characters who reacted in ways that made sense to situations that didn’t, then you can expect more of the same here, and that is a welcome thing indeed in a genre rife with characters who exist solely to advance plots and make incredibly stupid decisions time after time. And if you enjoy well-written genre survival-horror/survival-thriller novels, you will find a great deal here to love. In fact, I’m trying to come up with someone who likes zombie fiction who would not like this book (it could probably work as a stand-alone, but of course I’m going to tell you to read Drop Dead Gorgeous first because it’s lovely), and I’m coming up empty. You like zombies? You need this. ****