Ophelia Immune by Beth Mattson: The feminist Zombie Book you didn’t know you were missing

Ophelia ImmuneOphelia Immune

by Beth Mattson
Kindle Edition, 304 pg.
2018
Read: July 21 – 22, 2018

We come into this world sometime into the Zombie Apocalypse — or at least Outbreak, it’s tough to say. Most of our information is given to us second or third-hand through the narration of a young girl. Actually, it’s probably more like 52nd or 53rd-hand. North America (who knows what the rest of the world is like) is filled with people traveling from camp to camp trying to make it just another day. Some families drive from camp to camp, others have to risk walking.

These camps, by the way, have fences around them — including overhead. Because at night — the Zombies come. And if you aren’t in a camp, you’d better hope you’re at least in a car, because you’ve got nothing else to stop them than whatever weapon you might have.

Ophelia lost an older sister to the infection, and then her parents had a couple more kids (for people who never leave their car, this is quite the interesting proposition) that she has to look after. At some point, her family is able to get pretty far north (Canada somewhere), where at least in the cold winter, the infected can’t move. They have a house, they start to make a life for themselves — and then disaster strikes.

The title of the book is Ophelia Immune and there’s really only one way to find out if she’s immune, so this isn’t really a spoiler — she gets bitten. But she doesn’t become a mindless people-eating machine. She gets the strength, she gets the ability to carry on while wounded (details are in the book), but she keeps her brain, her personality. Sadly, anyone who looks at her won’t see that unless they get to talk to her.She runs from her family, finds her way to a city and tries to survive. Along the way, she encounters people selling young women — girls — to join polygamous families “for their protection.” She finds corrupt Rangers, who are to protect people from the infected. And much worse. She also finds some scientists, who are happy to experiment on her blood — actual infected blood is hard to find, blood of an immune person? Priceless.

I told Mattson that I didn’t like Zombie stories — by and large it’s the truth, too. And I didn’t like most of this book, because it was a really good Zombie story. It had all the elements and was downright creepy and disturbing. At a certain point, the tenor and focus of the book became something more — it was still creepy and disturbing with mindless ex-humans wandering around eating humans, don’t mistake me — but it shifted. I liked a lot of that.

Next to M. R. Carey’s Melanie, Ophelia is the most interesting Zombie I’ve ever encountered (well, maybe Gwen Dylan . . . ). She’s naive, she’s innocent — which is just strange to say — and idealistic. If you give her half a chance, she’ll win you over. It’s hard to judge the other characters — because Ophelia’s perspective is pretty strange, and you only see them from hers. But there are some good people, and some horrible humans in this world. So many horrible ones that you start rooting for the infection, really. But the rest of them, like Ophelia, give you hope.

Mattson’s writing itself is clear, strong and effective. I’d prefer if she buried the ideology under a couple more inches of narrative, plot and character – but that could just be me. I would definitely check out her next offering.

I’m the wrong person to ask really if you should read this book. If you like Zombie stories, yeah, give this one a shot — I doubt you’ve read anything like it. If you don’t? Ehhhh, think about it anyway, you probably haven’t read anything like it before.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion — and I warned her ahead of time that this was an uphill battle.

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3 Stars

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Bodacious Creed by Jonathan Fesmire

Bodacious CreedBodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western

by Jonathan Fesmire
Series: The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, #1

Kindle Edition, 370 pg.
Bodacious Publishing, 2017

Read: October 16 – 19, 2017


This is a strange, fun genre hodgepodge of a book. When Fesmire approached me about reading this book, I figured it’d be something like Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century, just set further south. A good mix of steampunk tech and an Old West setting, maybe with a Zombie wandering around as a vague threat, 300 pages later and we’ll be done. Wow. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

U. S. Marshall James “Bodacious” Creed is a one-man crime-fighting machine (figuratively speaking) — he comes to Santa Cruz in search of Corwin Blake, a notorious killer. While searching for Blake he sees plenty of evidence that there’s a greater criminal enterprise running through town, but he only has eyes for Blake. Not long after this, Blake guns Creed down. Creed awakens a couple of weeks later, stronger, unsure of what’s going on, but with the same drive to protect the citizenry of Santa Cruz and to put Blake behind bars or six-feet under. Creed’s appearance has been altered and his appearance alone makes criminals and non-criminals fearful (like the Gotham Knight will in a few decades). He becomes a one-man crackdown on crime.

How did Creed wake up? Well, that would be the purview of Anna Lynn Boyd — owner of a bordello and restaurant. She’s also a scientific genius on par with Tony Stark, her improvements to technology have propelled the California tech industry to unrivaled heights (including robotics of a steampunk sort). She’s been experimenting with some medical technologies and the murder of a hero like Creed provides just the opportunity she needs to test her breakthroughs.

You take that setup, add in a love interest for both of them, some loyal friends (old and new), some less-than loyal friends, a crime syndicate (before crime syndicates were cool), questionably capable law enforcement officials, and a rival scientist — and you’ve got yourself a heckuva read. It’s exciting, fun, pretty well paced with some very clever turns of phrase (the occasional bit of clunkieness and awkward phrases are easily forgivable).

The Steampunk and Western genres blend nicely — as seen in Dawn’s Early Light by Ballantine and Morris, and suggested in a Priest book or two. The time frames for both overlap — it’s just that Westerns are typically dustier than Victorian dramas. I spent a good deal of this novel doubting the “Zombie” tag — sure, you’ve got Creed walking around, but that was more of a Frankenstein’s Monster kind of thing. Although, there was a reference or two to something strange in New Orleans. — but at a certain point, the tag became fitting and appropriate, and despite my aversion to Zombies, I really liked what Fesmire had to say about them. His is an interesting take that should prove more interesting in future installments.

Beyond what I suggested at the beginning, I really didn’t know what to expect from this book — but whatever it was, I was wrong and pleasantly surprised to be so. This is one of those books that will not change or life or the way you look at anything, but you will surely enjoy reading it. Which is exactly what I needed when I read it, I encourage you to do the same.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Honest, not timely, this is 2-3 weeks late — sorry about that, Mr. Fesmire.

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3.5 Stars