Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zombie Fallout 2: A Plague Upon Your Family (Zombie Fallout #2) by Mark Tufo

After being rescued from his attic, Micheal Talbot, his family and a few survivors are on the run from the zombies.  What they don't know is that the zombie horde is not nearly as mindless as it seems.  Unlike other survivors, the Talbot's and the people they travel with are being hunted.  At first, Micheal doesn't want to believe this is the case but Tommy's warning becomes dire and his son Justin is starting to show terrible side effects after surviving a zombie attack.  How much of Tommy is still human is something they will have to discover, as the Talbots struggle to survive, even as it seems that their son is looking for an opportunity to lead them to their deaths.  Can the Talbots stay one step of the zombie plague that is determined to consume them.

I actually had to pause before writing this review and not because Tufo's story is particularly complex. He added new elements like zombies being able to move quickly, the dead from Talbot's neighbourhood stalking him and even a zombie/vampire hybrid.  This of course helped to raise the level of peril and added a sense of urgency to each step the Talbots tale.  I could feel the anguish of  Michael when confronted with toddler zombies intent on devouring him.  It was symbolic of a loss of innocence, of a way of life which would never return.  If only Tufo had focused on these elements of his story but alas that was not to be. When Tufo was not overwhelming the story with puerile commentary about farts and various other bodily functions, the story was like an ism lalapalooza.

A Plague Upon Your Family, is easily one of the most offensive books I have read in this genre.  Please keep in mind that I have read a lot of shit.  There isn't a single ism that Tufo didn't engage in in this story, which makes me wonder why Tufo believes that the pain of marginalized people is appropriate fodder for his second rate offensive comedy?  I almost don't know where to begin.

We met BT (read: Big Tiny) in Zombie Fallout.  He is the only Black man among the survivors and of course, he is big and intimidating because well, aren't all Black men? Michael Talbot vacillates between trying to calm BT's ridiculous, ever-present rage and counting on his physical size and strength.  BT is simply angry for the sake of being angry, as all Black men are stereotyped to be. If someone seems even remotely disagreeable to BT, like refusing to drink out of a bottle after he has had a sip from it, it must be because BT is Black. There is no nuance to this character.  He is simply a big Black hulk, who doesn't seem to have a sense for his own survival and is dedicated to Talbot's leadership for some reason I cannot even begin to fathom.  In fact, when BT isn't ridiculously angry, he spends his time propping up Mike Talbot's leadership and self esteem.

Then we have Jen, the sole lesbian of the group.  After being described as a waste because of her lack of interest in men in the first book, I suppose it was too much to hope that her character would improve.  When Jenn steps in to help Talbot fight off the zombies, she's described as "a gun toting man-hating lesbian" (pg 76). It only gets better from there folks. When she is able to move quickly, BT says, "Who would have thought a lesbian would have that kind of speed?"  (pg. 123) Is there something about homosexuality which denotes that one must move with the speed of a turtle? The line doesn't  even make any sense! Lesbians apparently are also more aware as we learned on page 209.
"Do you think lesbians are more spatially aware than your normal female?" I asked BT. "I mean they have to put their own furniture together and shit.  Use a tape measure to hang shelves, that kind of thing."   
This actually hits the mark of being both sexist and homophobic.  Jenn never becomes anything more than a stereotype and in the end, died falling off a truck when Talbot couldn't save her.  Normally, I am not happy when the sole member of a marginalized group gets killed off in a story, but in this case, it was an absolute relief because it means a break from all of the homophobia Tufo engaged in.

Shall we move onto sexism? Why yes, yes we shall. Women are a problem for Talbot.  He makes this clear by saying that women are the bane of his existence. Wow, Tufo created a real winner for his protagonist. When we meet Greta, we are told that she is Maggie's "bitch" sister.
Maggie, was quite the looker, even now she bore a stately beauty that belied her years.  Greta must have pissed God off something fierce because she had been whacked with the ugly stick a few dozen times.  Where Maggie was tall and slender, Greta was short and rotund.  Maggie's regal features were only more sharply pointed out by Greta's globbish ones.  It must have been absolute hell growing up in that shadow. (pg 123)
So, Maggie makes everyone miserable because she is jealous of her pretty sister? We don't learn anything about her, just that she is a "bitch."  When Talbot is not trying to coax Tracy into sex (nothing like running for your life covered in disgusting zombie detritus to crank one's sex drive) he acts as though he is intimidated by her.  Talbot makes all of the decisions for the group but his inner monologue is all about keeping Tracy mollified. Talbot behaves as though Tracy is little more than a shrew and shows little actual concern or respect for her person.  Talbot actually states that when his wife would ask him to do something that he didn't have a choice.  Unfortunately, Tracy did't actually ask him for anything because he simply transferred emotions and motive to her. She isn't even really consulted on decisions of survival.

Talbot does reserve a special kind of hatred though for fat women.
Two of the largest women I had ever seen in my life nearly bowled me me over as I tried to gain entrance into the inner sanctum of the absurdity.  Twins they were, but not of the 'doublemint' variety.  One was swathed in head to toe spandex.  Anything resembling my appetite was lost. Her sister had on a skirt that struggled for all it was worth to stay attached at the seams. The skirt barley covered massive varicose stained thighs.  It looked like the world's most detailed map had been tattooed on her but I really had my doubts it led to anything resembling treasure. (pg 105)
Of course, these fat women die like all of the women Mike encounters who don't appropriately conform to his version of womanhood.  We can only be thankful that their appearance in the book is brief. The only redemption these women have is when they take the time to flirt with Mike as they enter a McDonald's. They become human for an instant because they uplift his fragile male ego.  Speaking of fat people, I simply have to bring up Tommy - the fat magical disabled guy who travels with the Talbots. In just about every scene which Tommy appears in, he is looking for food or eating food.  Of course, I use the term food loosely because Tommy eats things like pop tarts and snickers by the bucket full. What's more, there is never any explanation for how he gets this so-called food, so that makes him a magical fat man who not only hears Ryan Seacrest in his head but has the ability to conjure food at will.

At several points throughout A Plague Upon Your Family, I seriously thought of DNFing this book.  It moved from one offense to the next more rapidly than you can blink an eye and the comedy was puerile at best.  There isn't a single thing which I can say that is likable about the protagonist.  In the end, I decided to keep reading simply because  A Plague Upon Your Family, is beyond epic when it comes to fails.  The amount of bad writing and homophobia, sexism, ableism, and racism in this series to this point in the series almost defies explanation. It amounts to a bigot's guide on how not to write compelling, well rounded characters.  I am only continuing to read because it is a study in how not to write a series.  The sole purpose of this series seems be not to tell an engaging story but to present the White, straight cis able bodied male perspective as the only one that matters. This isn't a book to buy or even borrow from a library unless you are a masochist.