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Lucky Streak Paperback – April 11, 2013
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John Paul Allen, author of Pretzel Logic: Tales of Love & Horror, Gifted Trust and Monkey Love
Lucky takes the wise course of not starting his story with a bang, but with a whimper by telling his story slowly and narrating his involvement in the zombie outbreak from just BEFORE the outbreak.
Lucky lives a double life. During the day he is working off his parole at Mrs. Brown's hardware story, while at night he is responsible for a streak of successful burglaries. Then, after he does a job he hears from his police officer father that they are closing in on the thief, however, his next-door single mom neighbor and her family is being evicted. So, after blowing the money that he's been saving from his jobs on paying her rent, he needs another job, and he needs one quick.
However, his intel man, Snake, wants to quit and finish college, so they agree on one more job. However, circumstances are developing beyond their control, and that the crap is starting to hit the fan, as Lucky finds out when he has dinner with his family, his mother, Dad, his father's sister, the pregnant Aunt Linda, and her partner, his other Aunt Crystal, both of whom are also cops. He learns from his father that he may be a person of interest in the burglaries and that his father is scared. Although he refuses to say why, his father informs Lucky to get ready to run to a prearranged safety place.
Snake then informs him that they have an interview with "Floyd" a hard-nosed criminal type. Floyd is not exactly a man you say no to, so they are tossed into the deep end of crime as they are informed that they are needed to pull a big-time crime. This is in the form of breaking into a gun dealing pawn store and steal a shipment of AK-47s and M-4s. Floyd is desperate, nervous and willing to pay twice Lucky and Snake's rate, and he wants them NOW. Well, okay, our dynamic duo now know that something is up, Floyd never pays more than he has to. Needing to relax before the job, they go to a stripper bar to relax, where they are attacked by "drunk" and Snake is scratched.
Then the crap really and truly hits the fan. It's a set-up, the cops are waiting, Lucky and Snake are busted, and Lucky's relatives are informed and the two are jailed where his Aunt Linda works. Snake dies, and then comes back, well, hungry, as do a lot of the city's inhabitants, and they storm the police station looking for some take-out.
Lucky's story is narrated in three parts, and this is roughly the first third with the second third telling of his escape from the city, and his survival in the countryside. With the third part dealing with Lucky learning that the outbreak may be in remission and of his redemption through the rebuilding of his life, his family, and his city. He even gets a girl friend in the form of the beauteous Portia. But all good things have to end, and the zombie remission may just be temporary, and old habits are hard to break, so to make ends meet, Lucky goes back into the housebreaking business.
And then . . .
This is not an explosive apocalyptic zombie novel. There are zombies to be sure, but Grannon has created a more character driven novel rather than the horrific gorefest. The novel's narrator, unfortunately, seems a little too, ummm, idealistic. Lucky pretty much conducts himself on the level of a boyscout, as he turns down the hot chicks who throw themselves at him, always blushes at their suggestions, he doesn't swear much, drink, do drugs, and pays his neighbor's rent. Even his burglaries, are pretty mild crimes in and of themselves. On the other hand, Lucky is a pretty likable sod, even if he thinks somebody who is thirty is "old" (!). In fact, it is with characters that Grannon does a good job. Sure, his characters aren't particularly deep, but he does a good job at making them distinct personalities. Grannon also does well with the pacing of Lucky's story, not everything happens all at once, as there's a steady ebb and flow to it all.
It was also a pleasant surprise in that Lucky doesn't get excessively graphic in narrating his story. Yeah, there are the mandatory headshots, rotting bodies, and zombie action, but Lucky has a more hopeful personality, not letting his story be as cynical or as nihilistic as many of his contemporary's survivor stories are. While there are hints of bad behavior from other people in other places out beyond Lucky's sphere of existence, he and the people around him are usually just folks trying to do the best they can in a bad situation. They all just keep trying to help each other.
On the negative side, dang it, I hate it when a character starts their story off by telling you how their story ends within the first few pages. Yes, for all intents and purposes, Lucky pretty much tells you how his story ends and you spend the rest of the novel hoping that some small miracle will happen to change Lucky's outcome. Still, Lucky is a natural born storyteller, and so Lucky gives his zombie story a more character driven direction than his contemporaries who want to give you their stories in the form of a constant stream of nihilistic gut munching, graphic sex, unending violence, and bloody death.
There is even room for a sequel, as Lucky gives us hints that he has learned that this just might be a man-made plague and that people were deliberately infected.
The novel also has a good introduction by Ursula K. Raphael that actually talks about the book and its evolution, and ISN'T more about the introductory author or is laden with fatuous praise and hyperbole.
Unlike some print-on-demand books, "Lucky Streak" has a great cover by Shawn Conn that actually illustrates something, that's Lucky, his mom's dog Rusty, and the late prima donna and drama queen Donna Eggan arriving at Lucky's for dinner.
The first third of this book is about Lucky living his life, and by the time a zombie outbreak forces him into survival mode, I was so engrossed in his daily grind, I not only didn't want the zombie outbreak to interrupt the story, I found myself upset and worried for him when Lucky did stupid things like break into houses and give away money which forced him to continue breaking into houses, because I was pulling for Lucky to do the right thing and get his life back on track.
So, when the zombie outbreak began, I actually didn't want it to happen because these types of stories can get very formulaic at that point. I didn't want that to happen with this book. "Lucky Streak" surprised my here and things went in a different direction. Right up until the last chapter, I couldn't guess what was going to happen next. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
I can usually put a book down. Even a really good book, after an hour or two, I'm ready to close it for the night. I had a tough time putting "Lucky Streak" down. I read half of it the first night and forced myself to split the second half up over the next two nights just to prolong the experience a little.
I've read a lot of zombie books and "Lucky Streak" has skyrocketed itself near the top of my list of The Best Zombie Books.
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