Ever since I devoured Dana Fredsti’s thrilling zombie novel Plague Town last April, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its sequel Plague Nation. Thankfully I was rewarded with it earlier this month, and got a chance to start it during my morning commute. I found myself on the edge of my seat, literally so absorbed, that I didn’t even realize I had gotten on the wrong train. Now that’s gripping zombie literature!

For those that missed Plague Town, here’s a quick recap: our heroine Ashley Parker, is a smart, strong, sarcastic young woman from northern California who helped contain a zombie outbreak in her sleepy college town. Parker is a wild card, someone immune to the virus which causes reanimation. Not only can she survive bites from the creatures, but she possesses enhanced reflexes and senses, making her a valuable asset. Along with her fellow wild cards and black ops military, Parker stopped the disease from spreading...at least temporarily.

Plague Nation roughly picks up where the previous book left off, with the horrific discovery that a vaccine which activates the dormant virus, has been delivered all over the country for urgent distribution. Fredsti gradually reveals that villains hiding in the shadows are responsible for circulating the disease and for sabotaging efforts to cure it. Their appearance immediately intrigues you, since Fredsti provides few details about these assailants and their nefarious motives.

Like she did in her last book, Fredsti uses passages in italics as an engaging device to shift location and provide us with the inner monologue of average people facing the infected. These horrifying scenes establish scope and show that the plague is starting to cause widespread chaos. Additionally, she continues to employ blood-soaked descriptions that paint a vivid picture of how nasty the undead look, and equally detailed wording to express how heinous they smell.

Our sassy heroine Ashley is just as biting and hilarious as she was in Plague Town. Both her internal and external thoughts are loaded with brilliant pop culture references from the mainstream and throughout nerddom. There are typical things you’d expect like Honey Boo Boo and The Walking Dead, but you also get humorous surprises such as Bill and Ted, Lost, Firefly, Lifetime, Star Wars, Star Trek, Arnold Schwarzenegger films, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman.      

Speaking of Batman, Plague Nation is totally “The Dark Knight” of this book series, because it tackles grittier themes that test our heroine’s mettle. And laudably, it’s just as successful at delivering these tough concepts as Nolan’s film. Ashley’s new romantic relationship is strained, she faces the zombie outbreak in urban areas like San Francisco where loss of life is inevitable, and she sees friends die. These deaths are just as heartbreaking for the reader since you become quite attached to Fredsti’s main characters, although at least she compensates by introducing fascinating, quirky new ones that you’ll get hooked on quickly.

As I was reading, I inhaled Plague Nation like a ravenous zombie, wanting to take in every gory morsel as fast as possible. However part of the way through, I realized that I needed to pace myself because I didn’t want the story to be over. Like the cliffhanger at the end of your favorite television show’s season, Plague Nation leaves you dying to find out what happens next.  

Plague Nation is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.