Tastes Like Chicken by Kevin J. Anderson arrives December 1st, the fifth novel in the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. book series. I have known of Kevin J. Anderson since the ’90s when he wrote a whole hoard of Star Wars stories including the Jedi Academy trilogy, the Young Jedi Knights book series, and the Tales of the Jedi comic series. I’ve also read many of his Dune novels that he co-wrote with Brian Herbert, the son of Frank Herbert, the original author of Dune and it’s first five sequels. However, this is my first venture into his Zombie, P.I. series. In actuality, I am a proofreader for Kevin J. Anderson’s publishing company, WordFire Press and when this book came up, I jumped at the chance to do it. I hadn’t had the opportunity to do an Anderson book yet and I was stoked for the opportunity.
Here is the book description:
Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. faces his most fowl case yet, when a flock of murderous feral chickens terrorizes the Unnatural Quarter. Also in the caseload, Dan deals with a sinister spokesman for Monster Chow Industries, a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell, an evil gang dealing in black-market blood supplies led by the nefarious Ma Hemoglobin, a ghost fighting a hostile takeover in a chain of blood bars, a spreading contamination that drives vampires berserk. And a cute little vampire girl who may, or may not, be his daughter.
With his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne, his bleeding-heart human lawyer partner Robin, and his Best Human Friend Officer Toby McGoohan, Dan Shamble is ready to solve the case. The feathers will fly as he goes face-to-beak with the evil peckers.”
Basically, the story is about a P.I. who was turned into a zombie during a time with monsters abound, including vampires, ghosts, Bigfoots (sorry “Bigfeet!”), and everything in between. Having not read the previous books I was concerned I would have a hard time understanding many of the plot points, but Kevin spells out mostly everything that I needed to know.
Note to new readers: Read the included bonus story Road Kill first. The short story gives a perfect background for the characters and events that take place during the novel.
The story progresses where Dan and his partner, human cop Toby McGoohan, have cornered a demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell. They managed to defeat the demon by using a spell that was delivered to them through a spell agency sending out free samples. Fast forward a little bit of time after that and the detectives are surprised to hear from McGoohan’s ex-wife, only to find out that they have a kid who now happens to be a vampire from a botched blood transfusion. So the kid, Alvina, is being dumped at the door of the detectives, just as usually calm and collected vampires are starting to go crazy attacking people out of nowhere. What could be the cause of the attacks? Well I guess you’ll just have to read Tastes Like Chicken to find out.
As I was starting to read this book, I got a very heavy Terry Pratchett feel to the book. If you don’t know who Terry Pratchett is you need to go discover him. He is the author to the Discworld series, which is a book series set in a fantasy realm that plays as a backdrop to Pratchett’s social commentary on everything he could think of — from religion to guns, he comments on it all. Back to Shamble. The first 15% of the book (or so) reads a lot like Pratchett, however it’s very heavy handed. So much so, that I needed to put the book down and go back to it later. It felt like every sentence the author physically needed to be a joke of some sort, or a commentary of some sort, which ended up being tied into a monster theme (of course). So I put the book down. But then I needed to get it finished, so I picked it back and up started reading for larger chunks of time and I found that after that initial part, the writing smooths out and I found myself really enjoying it. The plot has enough questions in it that I often would wonder how things would turn up and I found that I often had no clue where the story was going to take me, which is always a fun turn.
My favorite character in the story by far is Alvina, a newly turned vampire who is pre-adolescent and destined to remain that way for all of time. It’s an interesting take on a character and one that I felt drawn to. Having a story that was mainly about vampires allowed her to be tied intricately to the story as well. The book itself is an easy read. Anderson doesn’t talk down to his audience at all, but if you happen to miss a joke or a quip here or there it doesn’t detract from the story and you can continue reading for the principal story line. It’s a short book as well, and therefore Anderson doesn’t waste anything in the story. The actions of characters throughout the story have consequences later on. Nothing seems to be wasted, which is ideal in a novel but we all know is rarely how things go.
So, overall, even though I wouldn’t put it as a social commentary masterpiece, it is a really enjoyable ‘popcorn’ book. A great book to lay back in your favorite comfy chair, prop up your feet, and enjoy a good mystery.