Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Hour of the Damned, by Mark Henry


“Think Sex in the City meets Shaun of the Dead,” says the author.

OK, I so couldn’t resist that. Neither could the agent that he pitched it to without having written a single word, or Showtime, which has already optioned the book. No doubt about it, Mark Henry is a hot commodity right now.

Promises you can take to the bank1: a) You’ve never read anything quite like this (though I suspect there will be copycats in the near future); b) Amanda Feral is quite possibly the snarkiest, bitchiest heroine on the shelves right now; c) You will be grossed out at least once; and d) You will laugh. Even if you don’t want to, you won’t be able to help yourself.

I really enjoyed the first, oh, maybe 2/3s of this book. Too much fun. Footnotes where Amanda talks right at you 2. Entertainingly foul, explicit language. A key scene set a block or so from my workplace, which is always kind of a kick (shout out for the furniture district in Seattle!). Ingeniously creative (if also repulsive) settings. If writing books ever palls for Henry, I’m thinking he could do all right pitching interior decorating concepts or theme party planning, right down to the play lists.

I have to admit though, that eventually I got tired of reading about things that smelled like butt, or unwiped butt, and various other bodily functions that I really don’t need to have described in great detail. The plot was thin: the notion that Starbucks could be part of an evil plan to Take Over The World has been done, the actual plan to Take Over The World was objectively stupid as proved by the heroine, and the trail that turns out to be the red herring is hand-waved off in major cheat, IMO. </minor spoiler>

The book also claims to be sexy, but I do not see how. The undead are really NOT attractive in this book and the sex is definitely more about how blackly comedic it would be for a zombie of the Henryverse to even attempt it. If good-looking zombies doing a lot of ass-kicking and flesh-eating in designer couture and four-inch stilettos are sexy, I guess HHotD qualifies on that basis.3 And while I do think the characters are fresh in a lot of ways, the catty back-and-forthness and the vain, narcissistic angst around maintaining a non-healing body for eternity was reminiscent of an updated Goldie and Meryl.

The book is not marketed as a romance and that’s truth in advertising; there’s not the remotest hint of romance, or much emotion at all except maybe fear.

Reviews are mixed about Henry’s writing in the female viewpoint. My own take on it is that the voicing sounds more like a gay man than a straight woman ie, close enough most of the time; and the reapers? Straight out of a gay man’s worst nightmare. I mean that literally: a friend of mine once described his actual worst nightmare and it was pretty much what Henry wrote here, minus the creepy-cute little girl lures.

Not a bad fluffy book to pass the time, and like I said, very very funny, but I can’t really give it a rave. It’s definitely different and who knows, I might just be aging out of the target demographic. A little bit. Give it a pass if you’re looking for romance or have a delicate constitution about profanity.

Around the Web:
Literary Escapisim
Review Roundup
1 Uh, that might not be the best metaphor at this particular moment in history.
2Yes, YOU. Christ, who did you think? </lame attempt at copying Henry’s style >
3This may be sour grapes on my part as the result of my newly-reactivated fashion-inferiority complex.
4Dang. I can see how this footnote thing could get addictive.


Carolyn Crane said...

What a fun review. I love that you echoed the style, and it sort of helps the reader get a flavor for the fun writing. I haven't read this, I sort of go for more girly stuff, but I see it around, and I sort of always wonder if he's falling between the cracks with his demographic, like, who is his audience? Because I think it's women, but as you point out, it's not centered on romance. But hey, he must be doing pretty well somewhere!

Nicola O. said...

I think the audience that would most appreciate this are women 35 and under who went through a big goth phase and look back at it with both fondness and embarrassment.

Thanks for the compliment! To really imitate the flavor of the book though, I should've told you at least one thing about my sex life that you really didn't want to know.

Unknown said...


This book sounds perhaps a bit more gory than a book I just reviewed for Library Thing (Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland), but I had similar reactions to that book. What is it about bitchy, unlikeable heroines lately?? Not to mention the nastiness of the undead trying to masquerade as edgy...something-or-other.

On another topic, I agree about the addictiveness of the footnotes. I had a friend in another city who commented that she could always tell when I was in a witty mood, because I wrote her letters full of footnotes and asides.


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