Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Fabulous drag queens Destiny St. James, Kit Kat, and Blondella Bombshell were making preparations for their first show of the evening when all hell broke loose and life on earth was forever changed. Protected by the steel walls of their dressing room, formerly a meat locker in a converted old restaurant, the drag queens never saw the solar flares that reduced most of the earth’s population to zombies. But once outside, the direness of their situation is soon made all too clear. Zombies are everywhere and only a message left on Blondella’s cell phone indicates that other people might have made it through alive, including her boyfriend in New York City.
What ensues is no less than apocalyptic road trip across American, one that would include the remnants of the US Army, Cher and an armload of Bob Mackie costumes, a few bedazzlers and strangely enough, true love for all three. Not even the destruction of civilization as we know is enough to keep these girls out of their Jimmy Choos (knockoffs) and red nail polish! Watch out, zombies, the Queens of the Apocalypse are headed your way!
I love, LOVE Queens of the Apocalypse! Just when I think I am all “zombied out” by all the zombie books, undead tv shows and movies, along comes this fabulous (what other word could possibly fit) novel by Rob Rosen and I am back in the zombie fan club. Of course, no other zombie story that I am aware of has such flamboyant, totally impossible and outrageously lovable stars like Destiny, Kit and Blondella! Nothing gets these girls down, including world annihilation and solar flares.
Rob Rosen made me believe in and fall in love with these drag queens from the very start when we meet them in the process of getting made up for their evening show at the club. The dialog between the girls in the dressing room is affectionately snarky and hilarious, while remaining down to earth and totally real. Making notes as I read became impossible as the story and those fabulous girls kept me enthralled in their journey across country and life and death situations they encounter. It’s that old ‘laughing through the tears” storyline, but mostly laughing even as the living dead surround them and their circumstance often seems hopeless. But Rob is not interested in stereotypes, although some of the situations and scenes can be downright campy. No, Rosen has delivered some confident, intelligent, and resilient individuals who persevere no matter how high the odds or zombies that are stacked against them. Destiny, our narrator, Kit and Blondella just keep rising to the occasion when presented with new obtacles or surprises, like an undead Drag Queen friend of theirs, Creature and a wealth of SuperSoakers as artillery! With wigs askew, makeup running, and cracked nails, these wonderful characters demonstrate compassion, and a largesse of heart that keeps this story poignant as well as comedic. Because even with all the death and mayhem surrounding them, there are such great comedic episodes that will have you laughing till your cheeks hurt. And there are still those quiet moments of reflection and despair, often at night, where the frightening reality of exactly how slim their chances are of making it is driven home for them and for the reader. This is such an amazing story.
Rob Rosen’s tightly told and layered narrative never falters or bogs down. Instead we and the Queens are moved along at a fast pace, just barely (and sometimes not at all) keeping ahead of the zombie hoards now roaming the city streets and countryside. Voracious, stiff and groaning, the zombies here are both heartbreaking and scary. And they never stop coming. Rosen’s plan for them was as surprising a twist as all the other elements found here. I loved it. And Queen Creature too. Because for all the quips and bon mots Destiny, Kit, Blondella throw out, underneath all that bravado is the heart-rending reality of a world forever traumatically changed. It’s a new reality where all everyone they knew has died and returned as zombies. Vanished as well is all the support and social structure people count on, that of the United States of America as most probably all other countries too.
And even though Rosen has created some wonderful companions/love interests for our heroines, the sad fact is none of our merry band of survivors can be sure that there are more like them out there. So struggle on they do, with hope, love, and a great deal of attitude, they are drag queens after all. But yes, love interests arrive and they are as interesting a lot as the drag queens they fall in love with. There aren’t many characters here (as you can well imagine) but those still talking and walking are as layered and realistic a group as the main characters.
Queens of the Apocalypse is one novel that has it all. It has humor, suspense, horror, romance, and an absolutely outstanding ending. Its as if Rosen went through the literary pantry pulling everything off the shelves and tossing them into his author mixing bowl. And what he came up with is a smashing fictional dish that satisfies everyones palate. A goodly dose of guffaws is balanced with a bouquet of tears, a pinch of spice and snark to go with the softness and surprise of love found amongst the ruins of society. Really I can’t wait to go back and read it all over again.
I highly recommend you put this on the top of your TBR stack if you aren’t already reading it now. It is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014!
Cover art by Wilde City Press. I certainly wish I knew the name of the artist behind this fabulous cover. It’s utter perfection and almost too big in attitude to be reduced to the size of a cover. I love this!
Published January 29th 2014 by Wilde City Press
Buy Link: Wilde City Press