Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Hour of the Damned

The next review is for Mark Henry's first novel, Happy Hour of the Damned (Kensington, 2008). Mark is also a fellow author at Fangs, Fur, & Fey (where the Urban Fantasists play). I snatched up a copy of Happy Hour the millisecond it came out, since I began chatting with Mark after getting my first contract, and I've enjoyed following the process of his own book's publication. It helps that the guy has a wicked sense of humor and likes to talk about coprophilia. A lot.

Happy Hour is compulsively readable. I laughed out loud at times, and I don't often do that while reading a book--especially an urban fantasy, since the genre is so often more about noirish description and mystery than it is about straight-up giggles. The premise is deceptively simple. Amanda Feral, an ad exec in Seattle, gets turned into a zombie one fateful night in a parking garage. After accumulating an undead posse (including a gay vampire and an immortal bartender), she gets involved in a mystery surrounding her missing friend Liesel, who may or may not be supernatural (you'll have to read more to find out). Liesel was the name of the devil in Robertson Davie's Fifth Business, so you tell me. Along the way, she encounters Reapers, were-creatures, more vampires, a fashionista, a potential boyfriend, and a lot of raw meat.

What makes Happy Hour so fascinating is its obvious spinoff potential. Henry writes a kind of Sex in the Demon City, describing undead lounges and blood bars with teasing skill that makes you want to visit the Well of Souls or Pharmacy (despite risking your immortal soul). Amanda Feral is an instantly likable character, and you could see her prowling the streets of Seattle with her very own movie deal, impaling vamps with her wedge-heels. The mystery plot is fine, although I tended to read more for the bitchy dialogue. Henry's imagination is so wicked and so interesting that I kept thinking, damn, this could be such a fabulous TV show.

The cons are mostly subjective. Even as an academic, I didn't like the footnotes. They seemed unnecessary, and when they were funny, I would have rather Amanda just said/thought the joke (the one about the mitsuki actually made me snort coffee through my nose). The idea of the zombies devouring homeless people is pretty awful on a million different levels, but then again, so are zombies themselves. So it's hard to know where to draw the line. And if Amanda only ate 'bad people,' the narrative would seem too hackneyed. Still, a bit of remorse over snacking on teen runaways might be called for. Also, as happy as I am about gay vampire Gil, he does get a bit two-dimensional at times. Sure, he's a vampire club-kid, which doesn't precisely translate into gravitas. But I'd like him to be less peripheral, and every bit as fierce as the female characters.

In conclusion, no matter what type of urban fantasy you like to read, you're pretty much going to like this book. So buy it now. Buy lots of copies.


Violet said...

I definitely want to check this book out now! I'd seen it mentioned on Fangs, Fur & Fey, thought the title was clever, but wasn't really compelled to seek it out until now.

Thanks for writing up the book reviews, they're great!

Jes Battis said...

at FFF, we do enjoy the pimping