Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides #2)
by Mur Lafferty
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
2014 Orbit Books
Softcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-316-22114-6
Genre: Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Zoe Norris writes travel guides for the undead. And she's good at it too—her new-found ability to talk to cities seems to help. After the success of The Shambling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.

Work isn't all that brings Zoe to the Big Easy. The only person who can save her boyfriend from zombism is rumored to live in the city's swamps, but Zoe's out of her element in the wilderness. With her supernatural colleagues waiting to see her fail, and rumors of a new threat hunting city talkers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to finish her next book?

My Thoughts
Ghost Train to New Orleans is the second book in The Shambling Guides series, and while I enjoyed it to a point, I didn't quite enjoy it as much as the first book in the series, The Shambling Guide to New York City.  

One of the things I do like about this series is the interactions between the characters; the quips and jokes set the tone of the book, and I did find them quite humorous at times, and they were typically at Zoe's expense as a human.  And while some of the dialogue feels unnatural and stilted, it was easy to read.  The characters themselves are quite interesting and I'm glad to see that the coterie tend to pretty much stay true to their nature.  It is quite difficult to romanticize a zombie drinking a milk shake made up of human brains and other body parts and drinks that contain different types of blood, as well as some of the other food groups that were mentioned in this novel.  As soon as I tended to fall into the trap of a 'dead human' behaving normally, something would happen that would shake me out of that belief quite quickly, and I liked that about this book.

However, I do have to admit that the plot was rather weak in this novel, and to be honest, other than Zoe going to New Orleans to write a book for her company, and landing in quite a bit of trouble, I couldn't quite pinpoint exactly what the main problem was, other than finding a solution to so-called Arthur's zombie problem, which ended up being rather weak. Zoe's talent was explored in a bit more detail, although I am still unsure exactly what she can and will be able to do with this talent; I am sure that information will be forthcoming in future novels. I also think I was somewhat disappointed with the whole 'talent' thing though, as I thought it would be so much more fun for Zoe to remain a normal human trying to deal with a whole different world from what she was used to.  She also needed to develop a backbone and some spirit as her co-workers, her employees actually, tended to walk all over her, so I had a hard time picturing her as a possible future assassin.  Really?? I do have a problem with too much personality change in one book, so I hope it doesn't go down that road, and she doesn't become a 'Super Zoe'. I also found the constant interruption of information about Zoe's travel guide to be a distraction, and felt it didn't really have anything to do with the plot, other than to remind us that Zoe was actually in New Orleans to work.  It began to get irritating after awhile, but I think only because I was getting irritated with the book.  Zoe just seemed to go from one thing to another without there necessarily being a reason, naturally landing in a heap of trouble, and then the explanations were rather weak or not fully explained.  To be honest, it felt like the author skipped over some of the explanations because she either couldn't explain it herself (perhaps did not do enough research?) or thought the reader would not be interested.  I've been to New Orleans and would have liked to see more of the flavour of the city, including its history, come through.

Ghost Train to New Orleans was an easy, fun read, with a host of things happening - an interesting ride on a ghost train, including a ghost robbery; co-workers who would like nothing but to eat Zoe or drink her blood; organizations that want her to join with them; half-zombie boyfriends; demon dogs and cats; mysterious gods and goddesses; and an assortment of other interesting beings who do interesting things.  Personally, I would like to know more about the dragons as it's been a while since I read about that species.  Plot-wise, it was weak, but I love anything written about New Orleans, one of my favourite cities in the United States, but even thought the descriptions didn't quite live up to what I know of the city.  Would I recommend this novel?  Yes, to a point, simply because I really liked the first one.  And I would be willing to try the third novel especially as this novel sets up the scenario for book 3 and I am curious.