Title: The Down Home Zombie Blues
Author: Linnea Sinclair
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Stand Alone or Series: As of right now a stand alone novel, but hopefully there will be more?
Summary: (from linneasinclair.com)
In this steamy, suspenseful new thriller from RITA award-winning author Linnea Sinclair, a dangerously sexy space commander and an irresistibly earthy Florida police detective pair up to save the civilized galaxy…but can they save themselves from each other?
Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the Earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.
Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of bio-mechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.
Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important than she cares to admit.
Thea: Having recently read and reviewed Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair, Ana and I were very impressed and hastily moved on to another book by the author. Since I have a natural affinity for zombies, and Ana had heard wonderful things about this one from Katie over at Ramblings on Romance naturally, we chose The Down Home Zombie Blues (henceforth, Zombie) for our next joint review!
Once again, I have to say I was impressed by Ms. Sinclair. This book read much more science fiction than romance, in my opinion, but don’t let that deter you romance fans. As in Gabriel’s Ghost, the romantic element is quite solid. I loved that this book was ‘land-locked’, so to speak–while there are a few scenes that do take place in outer space on a large spaceship, 99% of the plot is focused on Earth itself, which was a nice little twist. As a Star Trek fan (and I am primarily thinking of the episodes when the Enterprise time travels to ‘old’ Earth, and in films like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), I am a sucker for any juxtaposition of futuristic technology in a familiar setting. In this case, the action goes down in Bahia Vista, Florida. The characters were realistic and relateable, the setting felt incredibly well researched (I would not be surprised if Ms. Sinclair lived in Bahia Vista or a very similar locale!), and the plot was wonderfully tight, fast-paced, and engaging.
Ana: After reading Gabriel’s Ghost – and loving it – I had to pick up another novel by Linnea Sinclair. The Down Home Zombie Blues seemed like the best option, not only because of the raving reviews but because I was intrigued by the title itself. I was not disappointed, I was riveted with the story from page one and the more I read the more I realised I was going to love this book. It is quirky, fast-paced, funny, with an interesting premise (more on that later) , a cool heroine, a sweet hero and many cool references to shows like Star Trek and movies like Casablanca. This book is a winner and you can put me down as a Linnea Sinclair fangirl from now on.
On the Plot
Jorie Mikkalah is a bonafide zombie hunter. An extraterrestrial from the Chalvash System, Jorie ‘beams down’ to a dirt ball Nil Tech planet–aka Earth–via Personnel Matter Transporter (the PMaT) with a small team for a search and rescue incursion. As a Commanding Officer of the Guardian Force, Jorie is well acquainted with such missions, and dealing with zombies.
Theophilus Petrakos is a homicide detective in Bahia Vista, Florida. One fine day, Detecive Sergeant Theo is called in to a crime scene with a victim that has been…crunchified. A mummy with bright red hair, and gooey wet eyeballs. And a laptop that looks like it’s something out of a futuristic movie the only witness to whatever may have happened. The BVPD is stumped, and with the ‘geek squad’ unable to take a look at the laptop-thing, Theo hauls the evidence home for the night.
Jorie and her crew, using their Tech, sense that their agent (the mummy with wet eyeballs) is dead, and that his T-MOD (the laptop looking device) is “leaking”. Bad, bad news.
Zombies are attracted to Tech.
Jorie takes off after Theo and barely is able to get him out of the way as a a green glowing portal opens and a zombie slithers out, solidifying into a terrifying figure with glowing red opticals, and clacking, slashing limbs. Together, they are able to take down the zombie, but Jorie is forced to beam both of them up to her spaceship before more are able to materialize.
Theo realizes that he’s in for the Christmas vacation of his life.
These zombies are not of the “BRAAAAAINS!” (that’s Return of the Living Dead) variety–they are bio-mechanical entities created by Jorie’s people over 200 years ago. The entities, connected in a sort of collective consciousness to the C-Prime (the master zombie that gives each entity orders). While the zombies were created to police and repair Hatches (key access portals for travel, and of course trade), the C-Prime zombies started to ‘think’ for themselves, refusing their programmed orders. The Guardians exacerbated things by giving the C-Primes MORE intuitiveness, and things just imploded from there.
Jorie, offered a captaincy, must try to solve the problem of the zombies, why they are displaying alarming new abilities, why they are attracted to a Nil Tech dirt ball like Earth, and oh yes–deal with a growing attraction to her Earthling charge, Theo.
Thea: Linnea Sinclair knows how to write a tight, page turning plot. Zombie is one of those books that grabs you, has you frantically caught up in the heart-racing action, and leaves you breathlessly rushing through the book to see what happens next. Even though the book itself is nearly 500 pgs long, it doesn’t feel lengthy in the slightest.
More so than Gabriel’s Ghost, Zombie is a science fiction story. The sci fi is again of the Gene Roddenberry/George Lucas/Ronald D Moore variety–bipedal, oxygen breathing, English (or Vekran)-speaking extraterrestrials with the right number of appendages, the proper sexual organs, etc. Which is just fine by me! While Jorie and the Guardians primarily speak Arlash, they are knowledgeable of other languages–and the alarming similarities between Vekran and English is a wonderful revelation that comes late in the book.
This is a wonderful adventure story, and with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. Great stuff.
Ana:The book is a sci-fi romp about a very dangerous threat to our planet and it was really well done – I was gripped to the storyline, wondering where Linnea Sinclair would take us next and how the threat could possibly be averted. But Zombie is fundamentally, about the differences between the earthlings and aliens and how they see each other. In that case, the plot had a very clever premise which I am not used to but which I thought fascinating: if we usually are privy to how Humans would feel by getting in contact with a much more scientifically developed culture , this book subverts this premise by showing us how the opposite would completely and utterly dismay the aliens.
In that sense, Jorie’s bafflement at the lack of the development of technology of the nils was funny but also very easy to understand how that would be frustrating. I also like how there was a development in the way The Guardians saw the nils: how the fact that even though technologically lacking and simple they realized that the relationships and the way the humans relate to each other were not simple or lacking in any way.
The use of language was also well done. If at first, it seems rather off-putting that Jorie would know a language so very conveniently close to English , Linnea Sinclair managed to insert sly reasons of how it would be so. Their attempts at adapting to each other’s use of English or Vekran was a hoot to watch. I also liked how Theo , at first, used Earth’s not very easy to translate colloquialisms against Jorie any time he needed to unsettle her.The book was very humorous, at points I was laughing so much it hurt my sides. The best thing though was that the jokes or the funny moments were very subtle – I would even call them insider jokes like the ones about Star Trek or Casablanca – which Theo quotes and Jorie is obviously at lost. I also loved how Theo played the guitar and wrote his blues – like for example, the Down Home Divorced Guy Blues.
And the cursing? Also tremendously funny – how Jorie’s curses would translate in a nonsensical way whereas Theo would curse in Greek – I have a Greek friend and I can vouch for the correct usage of the world “malakas” here. I use it all the time too.I seem to be talking about or more about the tangential aspects of the story rather than about the plot itself but this is really where the book shone to me.
On the Characters:
Thea: I very much enjoyed both of the lead characters, Theo and Jorie. One big difference between Zombie and Gabriel’s Ghost is the difference in narrative style–while Ghost is written in the first person, Zombie is told in the more conventional third person (limited omniscient), so the reader knows the minds of both Jorie and Theo. Actually, we see more of Theo’s thought process than Jorie’s–and his asides are hilarious. Ms. Sinclair puts a lot of love into her male leads, and just as Sully was the star of Gabriel’s Ghost, Theo is the true lead in Zombie. I loved his quick wit, his rollicking sense of humor–and especially his Greekness! (Ana and I have a close Greek friend. You know who you are. *ninja*)
Most especially, I loved the interaction between the two characters. Jorie is incredibly driven, an “ice princess” who notches up her zombie kills and stays emotionally separate from everyone else. Her goal in life is to become captain of her own ship–certainly not to get sidetracked by some dirt-born Nil. Similarly, Theo is career driven and does not want any distractions. Both have been burned in the past by undeserving lovers. While this again isn’t a groundbreaking or new tale, the heartache that both feel at their perceived inevitable separation is incredibly touching.
The supporting characters, from Theo’s neighbors and family to Jorie’s teammates are all wonderful, in true Linnea Sinclair style. Zeke and his veterinarian wife, and Jorie’s teammate Tam are beautiful additions to the story. I wish that the villains were a bit more developed (we barely get any introduction to the Tresh), but even the brief glimpses we see of them are great.
Ana: I loved both Theo and Jori. I loved their interaction , the ease they had around each other – be it on the field, or just being close to one another.So, even if things (romantically speaking ) happened too fast, it was easy to believe that these would feel such a connection this soon. Not only because we all know, how danger can bring people together but also because we can believe that they had things in common. Both were mature people (another thing I like about the book: Theo was 43 and Jorie 39 – no green youths)with an unhappy history of relationship in their past. But also because they were both competent officers of law, in their own realms, both equally committed to their profession and who believed in what they were doing. Theo never underestimated Jorie only because she was a woman – good for him , because the woman was utterly and completely competent – a veritable warrior . Theo was a sweet heart who fell head over heels in love with Torie and who very soon was prepared to commit himself to her: Very swoon worthy (not as swoon worthy as Sully from Gabriel’s Ghost though, that one is going to be a difficult hero to beat).
Final Observations, Recommendations and Rating
Thea: What else can I say? Zombie is a wonderful, fun read. I would warn strict romance fans that this one is not as romance centered–although the romantic element is very strong. I’m honestly torn between this one and Gabriel’s Ghost. Zombie is more SF, and I loved the Earth-bound setting, and the culture clash between the two groups of characters. I also loved Ms. Sinclair’s re-imagining of “Zombies” (and heck, even “Vampires”!!!)–they kind of reminded me of the Borg, but minus the whole Assimilation trip. I loved all of the allusions to Star Trek, as well as the very real feel of bureaucratic chain of command on both the alien Guardian and Earthling police department ends. Ms. Sinclair is a retired Private Detective–and I believe her experiences in the field shine in this novel. The ending is somewhat open…I am desperately hoping that we getting a sequel?
Ana: If I saw Gabriel’s Ghost as more of a romance than a sci-fi novel, the opposite is valid for The Down Home Zombie Blues – I thought the romance was incidental to the dealings with the threat and that worked really well for me. Linnea Sinclair knows her sci-fi turf – the high tech gizmos that she came up with were creative and well thought out. They sounded so very realistically, i was very impressed.
Zombie is funny, action-packed, with cool high-tech sci-fi talk and some sweet moments between Jorie and Theo. This book is, to sum up, pure FUN.
Thea: Sans spoilers I promise…Ok, one Star Trek shout out, in an argument between Jorie and Theo:
“And this funny stuff you do with your computers,” he waved his hand at the assortment of parts in front of her, “this violates nothing?”
“That’s not the same.”
“It is. It’s for a greater purpose, a greater good.” A phrase echoed suddenly in his mind, and he spoke before he realized what he was saying: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” Christ, he was quoting Star Trek to her now, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember if it was Spock or Kirk who said the line.
Ana: As a fan of Casablanca, I loved when Theo says:
“Of all the crime scenes in all the towns in all the world, you had to walk into mine”
Oh and go check out The Down Home Zombie Blues , the official soundtrack!
Thea: 7 Very Good
Ana: 8, Excellent
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