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The Panama Laugh Paperback – August 1, 2011
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Thomas Roche pulls absolutely no punches with Panama Laugh. The guffawing (this is seriously creepy-making), hysterical dead come from every direction, and thanks to a relatively good supply of ammo, lots of guts end up flying around. Lots. A veritable cornucopia of gooey flying zombie flesh fills the pages of The Panama Laugh. As Dante, Trixie, and Van make their escape via air, eventually ending up on a nuclear fortified gunship of the coast of San Francisco, our hero rarely flags. Told in first person from Dante's POV, the narrative goes back and forth between the action at hand to the events leading up to the zombie apocalypse, and it's not a pretty story. Corporate greed, a madman's desire for eternal life, and radical groups bent on depopulation make for a heady cocktail, and Dante's experience with the nasty cause of the Panama Laugh is very, very personal. Giving away too many details would take away the visceral fun of this awesome, terrifying, gruesome, and warped roller coaster ride, and I certainly don't want to do that. Roche's writing is tight, immediate, and engaging, and if you're anything like me, you'll want to read it in one sitting (ok, I read it in two, but I wanted to read it in one.) Horror lovers will eat this one up (sorry about the pun), and if you're a true zombie fan, it's not to be missed. I was in the mood for something "zombie", different, and awesome, and I got all three, and more, with The Panama Laugh. Put this one on your must list!
I also love the hat tip to a current popular porn empire, as well as the ever present lunatic fringe of our world. So, why four stars? Why not five? The story, the plot, the fully rendered characters, the sheer cleverness are all worth five stars plus, but I was jolted from the world too often by a lack of competent editing. If it were cleaned up a little, this book could be a runaway best seller. It also cries out for a film treatment. Here's hoping the right people discover it so we can go see it on the big screen.
All that stuff was great, and skillfully done. But the best thing is the quirky style the author brings to the genre. In the middle of the worst apocalyptic crisis imaginable, you get a description of a bad southern accent imitation like this: "J.R. Ewing drunk on Sterno, rehearsing for a bit part in a Broadway-musical remake of Deliverance." Like a good chef, Roche knows how to season the book with this kind of flavor in just the right spots, in just the right amounts, without over-doing it. I was delighted every time I ran into such a passage.
Oh, and by the way, I want a sequel. I've seen the apocalypse. Now I want to see the post-apocalyptic hijinks.
Thank goodness the author finally stopped doing this about 2/3 thru the story. This is a pretty gruesome/gory zombie thriller. Overall I enjoyed the story. "Frosty" is a different kind of anti-hero and he has an oddball set of friends/associates.
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