Thursday, March 10, 2016

Undead L.A. volume 2 review


    The Undead L.A. series by Devan Sagliani is a series based around telling stories about the final days of Los Angeles citizens during the zombie apocalypse. Each story chronicles the events of someone in the city before the US government drops bombs on the survivors, destroying them (or they escape beforehand). Personally, I really enjoyed the first volume and was looking forward to this one.

    Fans of the original will be pleased by Undead L.A. volume 2 as it contains some genuine gems. My favorite story was about a Los Angeles porn star which analyzes the bizarre reality of the pseudo-glamorous high-class sex industry in the city. Unfortunately, I do believe Devan Sagliani erred as half the novel doesn't deal with the walking dead but aliens.

    Yes, aliens.

    This novel reveals the cause of the zombie apocalypse and it turns out to have been a group of condescending evil aliens who are destroying humanity in order to put a scattered selection of survivors into an interstellar space zoo. It's quite the genre shift and leaves the volume ending on an unsatisfying note. I am torn between wanting future volumes of the story dealing with the alien plot (and hopefully killing all of the disgusting human collaborators who get far too much attention in this volume) versus a return to the undead-related stories.

    The aliens are a definite love-hate sort of deal for me in this book as the concept is well developed but detract from the gritty realism of the previous volume. The fact they're a bunch of genocidal monsters who adopt sneering morally superior tones while murdering billions (as well as help a bunch of humans escape karmic justice for their participation in this holocaust) doesn't help matters.

    That being said, I will say Devan Sagliani's take on issues of identity, reality, and survival vs. treason are intriguing. They're just a big shift from the Fear the Walking Dead-style stories which I'd been enjoying for the rest of the books. They're decent-enough examples of science-fiction and very high concept with "Ghosts in the Machine" talking about how a person's identity might be mutable and "May they not be Forgotten" showing how a person could overlook their own participation in mass-murder if they can pretend they're still the good guy. Still, I came here for the zombies.

    As such, the stories I really enjoyed this volume were "Fever Dream", "Black Crow Laughing", "We are the Hunters", and "Californication." The last, in particular, is a great story with a very sympathetic protagonist and one I would have easily read an entire book about. It's a fascinating juxtaposition of the lurid with the beautiful then topped off with zombies. Samantha is probably Devan Sagliani's most likable character with good reasons how she ended up in her particular profession as well as a wonderfully-realized backstory. I only wish the story hadn't ended the way it did.

    As before, Devan Sagliani gives little factoids about the city of Los Angeles before each of his story which relates to said story's theme. These include issues about gang warfare, homelessness, the pornography industry, and other tidbits. These are woven into the story and some of the best moments from the book are real-life Los Angeles smashes head-on into the fantastical world of the undead. "We are the Hunters", surprisingly, manages to be the most uplifting of the stories despite its darkest beginning.

    In conclusion, Undead L.A. volume 2 is an excellent zombie apocalypse book for half the story and a decent science-fiction anthology for the other half. I'm not sure they're two great tastes which go great together, though, so let the buyer beware. I'll still be picking up future copies of his work, however.

8/10

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