Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Unnatural Acts Review

Second books can be tough, they often make or break a series.
Obviously, Book One always has the tough task of setting up a world and its inhabitants.
But the second installment of a series should always expand and build on all the work that was put into that world during that first outing.
Yes, this is a review of a Dan Shamble book, so you know I like it.
But as I said last time, I’m trying to look at these with fresh eyes, and this is also my first chronological read through.
So does it do a good job expanding upon what the first book brought to the table?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, this is your requisite official ***SPOILER WARNING***
And I mean it this time!

Back in the Unnatural Quarter, things are moving along normally.
Businesses are thriving, including the local brothel.
Yes, you read that right, there are monster whores in this book.
Now if you read that particular sentence and it doesn’t cause you to buy this, pull the ripcord now, cause you clearly have no discernible sense of humor at all.
MONSTER WHORES, MAN!!!
Of all shapes, sizes, races, breeds, and levels of physical contact.
We have Zombies, and Ghosts, and Vampires (oh my!), Werewolves, Suscubuses (if you get that joke, 10 points to your house), and even a Mummy Cathouse wrangler.
Something so ridiculous and hilarious wouldn’t even cross my mind to think about, I’d figure werewolves would just rub their lipstick and move on.
But the fact that monster hookers are included in this would goes to show the depth of thought that KJA put into this.

The other new cases and concerns this go round include a clay golem fighting for emancipation, the ghost of a notorious bank robber that’s trying to figure out his after life, an unnatural hating senator with a deep secret, a long written off brother, a mixed monster couple fighting to move into the neighborhood they want, a mob like company taking over the Quarter bit by bit, and “Shakespeare’s” ghost’s acting troupe facing harassment.
To put it in more succinct terms, Dan & Co are swamped with way more problems and headaches than last time.

Probably the most interesting of these story lines for me would be the brother.
Sheyenne, Dan’s ghostly girlfriend, is confronted by her deadbeat brother, Travis, who comes to town and stirs up a shit storm and a half.
We all know somebody like this dillhole, the scumbag family member that gets mixed up in multiple shady schemes and somehow always comes out smelling like roses.
The dude that will sell out his sister just to get ahead, which is exactly what Travis does…twice!
Once when he sells the last family heirlooms that Sheyenne has to cover old debts and once when he goes to the Full Moon brothel and tries to get down with the resident succubus…then joins the crazy senator in his crusade against unnaturals.
It’s pretty heartbreaking for Spooky, and leaves her in an incredibly vulnerable spot, compounded by Dan having so many problems that cause him to head to Full Moon himself.

***HEADS UP, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILING THE END OF THE BOOK***
And that breakdown in communication between Dan and Sheyenne leads to one of the most heart warming, yet disturbing and, some how, also hilarious things I have ever read in my entire life.
The closing pages of the book, after they mostly work things out and are back on more steady ground, sees Spooky trying to go the extra mile and do something special for Dan.
Being a ghost, they can’t do the horizontal hula because she can’t physically touch Dan.
But she can move inanimate objects.
So she gets Dan up to his (often unused or visited) apartment above the office, takes him to his bedroom, and, in an attempt to give him the entire experience of a fully functional romantic partnership, she dons a sex doll suit as a skin so they can re-engage the physical aspects of their relationship that were lost with her own death.
Gang, it is the most fucked up and romantic thing ever!
Also, it’s an utterly original concept!

In my introduction I asked a very specific question (again, we all know at this point if I’m talking about a Dan Shamble book I thoroughly enjoyed it), so does this expand on the first book?
Yes, it does.
The monster brothel isn’t the only critter run business we learn about, we hit up one of the most mundane types of businesses I can think of, a Pawn Shop.
But the twist here is this one is run by a goblin who tends to horde all of the stuff that comes in, especially if it’s shiny.
Something like this really goes to show how deep KJA gets this time, trying to expand and show that life really has gone back to normal and that monsters are fully integrated into society.
They own businesses, they engage in providing entertainment, they’ve made the Unnatural Quarter a tourist stop and lightning rod for controversy.

Without getting too deep on the controversy, I will say this: KJA is a prophet!
He totally called the era of politicians regularly vilifying people and trying to legislate against shit that they and their families have done or taken part in.
I remember when I first read this, I was stunned by the parallels to what was happening in the realm of politics at the time.
Here we see a senator who’s disgusted by the monsters who just want to live, work, and play without catching hell for, ya know, existing…kinda spooky, right?

To wrap up, one of my favorite things about this series is the continuity (and you can hear KJA bust my balls a bit about it in my interview with him from Book Club 5 Ep 2 HERE) and attention to detail that he painstakingly crafts.
Minor bit characters pass through, giving this world the depth we nerds CRAVE.
Reading in order makes this series feels like one of those fancy pants French meals you hear about that take hours to enjoy.
Book 1 was a great simple entree to get you warmed up, Book 2 feels like a 1st course with a few more complexities and flavors to keep you interested.
With that in mind, I can’t wait to revisit Book 3 and savory the experience.

Let us what you think in the comments or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Death Warmed Over Review

I’m not gonna bullshit you here: I’ve been talking up this series since Episode 37 (nooch!) of The Main Show and Ep 88 is on the cusp of dropping in the next fortnight or so.
To put it bluntly, this is a Dan Shamble book, so you know damn well that I love it.
Now if that’s all you came here to find out, that’s all good, man!
Sincerely, I thank you for taking the time and visiting the site.
Take a look around and read some of our other features, reviews, and articles, I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

But if you’re still here, if you want to know exactly why I love this book, let’s dive into it, gang.

As per usual, this right here is your requisite ***SPOILER ALERT***

Still reading?
Okay, groovy.
Now for those keeping score, this is the very first Dan Shamble novel, but this was not the first that I read.
I was curious after reading the third book first if reading them chronologically would make an impact on how the world unfurls and since it’s been a while and I’ll be rereading them all in order I’ll be better able to answer that by the time I write my review for book three.
I’ve also wondered how this origin story plays out in context too, and the answer is pretty damn well.

We meet Dan a month post mortem, he died when some sneaky prick snuck up on him and blasted his brains all over the sky…or at least the alley that he was walking through at the time.
We’re quickly introduced to his world and learn about the string of coincidences that caused all monsters and mythological creatures to come to life (a.k.a. The Big Uneasy) ten years ago, which include a particularly perfect planetary positioning, a copy of the Nerconomicon, and a virgin with a paper cut.
We meet his ghost girlfriend, Sheyenne, and find out she was killed by a poisoned drink not long before Dan himself got popped in that alley, and that they suspect their murders are connected as he was investigating hers when his went down.
His partner in Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, Robin Deyer, is introduced to us as a lawyer that fights for her clients as if they were her family, never backing down from the struggle of Unnaturals and their still murky rights and privileges.
In short, Kevin J. Anderson sets up the entire world of the Unnatural Quarter efficiently and effectively.

I take the Stan Lee approach when I write these reviews, every review is somebody’s first.
Now I know I have talked about a fuck ton of Mr. Anderson’s work in these reviews, and certain phrases tend to pop up time and time again.
But that doesn’t make them any less true.
The dude is one of the most economical writers I know of.
In every book of his I read I never feel like I’m muddling around in an ocean of words waiting for him to dive in and drag up from the depths some deeply hidden objective like I have with other writers whose work I’ve reviewed.
You can tell he’s having fun, but he’s not wasting pages with some boring story about some random dude that our main characters once passed by and never did, or will, see again.
If he mentions a character or place, you best be damn skippy that off handed mention is gonna mean something or play into the story later.

Unlike a TV detective, Dan & co are always juggling multiple cases at any given time.
For this first go round the Chambeaux & Deyer gang’s caseload includes trying to get a divorce settlement finalized favorably for a monthly werewolf client who happens to be married to a former adversary of Dan’s, a nervous Vampire who keeps receiving threats from an anti-monster hate group and whose neighbors are disappearing, a witch whose sister was transformed into a pig due to a typo laden spell book, a family whose drunken uncle won’t stop bothering them now that he’s died and returned as a ghost, a mummy who doesn’t want to be museum property, trying to track down a giant creature that’s smashing windows all over town, all while trying to solve Dan & Sheyenne’s own murders.
All of that is jam packed into just about three hundred pages.

Look, gang, the bottomline here is that I love a good origin story and this is a damn good one.
After just a few chapters of Dan’s Noir-ish narration, you understand exactly how this world works.
I’ve said many times that this series feels like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and a great detective show like The Rockford Files or Monk were thrown into a blender, and I stand by it.
It’s odd, mysterious, fresh, interesting, quirky, fun, and enthralling every step of the way.
It’s a great pick me up, and it great if you want something that fits the Halloween season that isn’t super heavy, because while it may be a story of death and monsters, it has a solid heart under all of that necrotic flesh.

Tell us what you think or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Services Rendered Review

Back to the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer we go for more fun & spooky cases in this collection of 9 new stories.
The whole gang is along for the ride too!
Dan Chambeaux: Detective extraordinaire & Zombie.
Robin Deyer: Precedent-setting lawyer for all unnaturals & all around sweetheart.
Sheyenne “Spooky”: Receptionist & Dan’s ghost girlfriend.
Officer Toby “McGoo” McGoohan: Beat Cop & Dan’s BFF, emphasis on the 2nd F.
Let’s see what kind of trouble is about to go down in the UQ, shall we?

For the 20th time, this your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Let’s get this out of the way right here at the top, just so we’re all clear.
This a Dan Shamble book so we really don’t need to pretend that I may not like it.
There is a 95% chance that I was going to love it and I damn well did.
With that all out in the open I have to say the worst part of this book is that it ended so quickly, and it’s getting sadder and sadder when the adventures in the Unnatural Quarter come to an end.
I just can’t get enough of this oddball family, their interactions, and this entire universe.
Flat out, I fuckin’ love this world and these characters.
It’s creeping dangerously close to Scooby & Star Wars levels of love.

Before we get too deep, go read my review of High Midnight, the 4th story in this collection.
I go a bit more in-depth on that than I may on some of the others.
Anywho, let’s get started on the other stories in here.

There are 2 entries in this collection that I was 100% fascinated by, 1st and foremost would be Paperwork.
This is the shortest of the 9, at about 8 pages long, and it’s basically a short way to get you introduced to this universe & this collection.
An Unnatural divorce sees the spurned husband, a poltergeist, tearing up the office and slinging case files all over the place.
The main cast comes together to reminiscence about the cases as they straighten up.
It feels like pure sitcom clip show set up fun, only without recycling old content.

I hesitate to call the following an issue, because I don’t really feel it’s a complaint as much as it is a hope/suggestion.
But having gotten used to how @TheKJA has done the intros to each story with his Selected Stories series, I would’ve loved to see this one story be multi-part intros to each of the following stories to give us a little bit more fun and help us learn more about these characters.
It really would have brought home the sitcom feel.
It works as is though, and we do learn about these characters and their personalities through the other 8 stories.

The other story that I was fascinated by would be Wishful Thinking.
As KJA said when I interviewed him in Series 5, Ep 2 of TNB Book Club, keen observers will realize that this is the Shamble half of the Kolchak crossover comic that he wrote (hear both Fitz and I review the comic in Episode 43).
The second he told me that I started wondering “now how the hell is that gonna work?”, and to answer that question…pretty damn well!
Obviously while reading this, I could see the changes clear as day, but even more interesting than that is seeing the switch from a visual story to pure prose.
I love comics, but the theater of the mind that simple words on a page can prompt can not be beat.
That alone makes this the better version of this story for me.
Not to mention the singular focus on Dan and this world gives it a less disjointed feel.

I only want to mention 2 other stories in this review, and part of me wanted to rip out 1 of them and make it a special review of its own as it’s seasonally appropriate.
Cold Dead Turkey gives us a story that must be an anthropologist’s wet dream!
Set at Christmas (you know, to take advantage of the extra magic), an Aztec Mummy and an Egyptian Mummy are at odds over a sacrifical turkey being specifically raised to fulfill a centuries long wish.
This one perfectly encapsulates why I love this series.
It is unabashedly and unapologetically ridiculous.
This is what I’m talking about when I say that this series feels like a mix of The Munsters & The Rockford Files.
It’s the perfect balance of humor, monsters, & detective footwork.
It’s up there with Role Model, Hair Raising, & Death Warmed Over as one of my favorite stories in the franchise.

Another one up there would be Game Night.
There’s really no mystery here at all, this is one of those stories that helps us learn a bit more about who these characters are.
This is pure horror, a new spin on this world.
After a rough day in the office for both Dan & Robin, Spooky decides they all need a break, invites McGoo over, and organizes a family game night.
McGoo, hot off of a case of his own, and due to some confusion, rushes over before heading back to UQPD Headquarters to catalogue a vial of evidence.
Contained in the vial is a wish substance a genie tried bribing him with.
They start playing a Zombie Outbreak board game and due to a mishap and some poor wording, the entire crew gets transported into the world of the game.
Seeing the entire gang thrown into a dire situation and how they handle it throws this up there with the stories I mentioned above!

Normally, in a collection this short, I would break down every story and give you reasons why I love each, but I think I’d rather leave some of them for you to discover.
Kevin J. Anderson’s love for this series is clear, the sly world building skills are razor sharp.
A few characters from previous books and stories come back for small cameos that go a long way.
And on a more personal note, as a fan of KJA, I absolutely loved the throwaway mention of the librarian who looks like she “suffers from chronic hemorrhoids”.
If you don’t get that reference, watch this and join the cool kids club.

I want you all to check this out, half because I’m greedy and great sales means I’ll get more.
And half because I genuinely think if you like me, my YouTube channel, Fitz, the Pod, and our collective sense of humor, you will love this series.
It’s so damn good and deserves your attention gang.

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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Monsterland: Reanimated Review

Threads were left dangling at the end of the first novel, storylines are sure to be followed up on in this second novel, and there are also more monsters in play this time!
But can Michael Okon take what was a pretty damn good opening salvo and turn it into a series that’s worth coming back to again and again?
Can he up the game any more than he did last time?

As is my way, consider this your ***Spoiler Alert***

After an opening where Konrad’s head is rescued by his assistant, Igor, after a pack of wolves ripped it off at the end of the last book, we jump ahead 3 weeks to find a nearly depressed Wyatt Baldwin trying to understand his place in regular life after killing monsters and saving friends.
The government we knew is gone.
All contact with the world outside of Copper Valley is basically cut off.
Carter, Wyatt’s step pappy, is trying to get the town back in order and on its feet.
All while a sinister plot is about to unfold around them.

This adventure in Copper Valley proves, if nothing else, that Okon loves to subvert expectations.
This book is a lot like Kevin Smith’s Red State or The Last Jedi, just when you think it’s about to turn left or right all three just say fuck it and kick it in reverse.
The girl with my favorite arc from the last book, Jade?
Long gone is the kickass girl that was splitting heads, now she is almost childlike in her innocence and clinging to Wyatt.
She is replaced by a possibly shape shifting new girl named Lily in the badass department.
Though Jade does end up serving a purpose, Lily is a better and far more capable character from the moment she’s introduced.
Wyatt, our main character, seems to struggle with where he wants to be.
He can’t quite settle on being a cog in the machine of the group or its leader.

His friend Melvin, who offered himself up to be turned into a werewolf in the previous book, may well be my favorite character this time out the gate.
Last time he felt a little too weak and nerdy, but now he has grown to be a take charge leader of his hybrid Wolf/Coyote pack.
But he also leads to my sole major complaint.
Once The Blob like Glob shows up, Melvin’s pack sacrifices themselves to the gelatinous beast to save him.
Later in the book, which amounts to mere hours later, he rather nonchalantly has moved on and nipped a few other critters and started a new pack.
He really seemed to have a great bond with the 1st group, so moving on so quickly felt a little too cold.
Though there is a member of the new faction that makes it slightly more palatable.

The new monsters in this installment are great!
And, unsurprisingly so, that’s exactly the strength of this series, the creatures.
1st we have the alien fuel-like substance, that the kids call The Glob in honor of the aforementioned Blob, that sucks life out of humans to convert into energy.
The Glob is woven into the origins of 2 of the other new beasts, making for a great sense of comic bookery and continuity.
It also has a weakness that is set up in the 1st book in a deceptively nonchalant way that could almost blast by you if you don’t read these back to back, cause it’s easy to retroactively spot and appreciate it.

Next we have mummies, which I thought were pretty cleverly “brought back to life”.
The zombies that were snuffed out on opening night are wrapped in Glob soaked bandages which brings them back to life and makes them more mindless than before.
Vincent Konrad is revived through Glob as a Frankenstein’s Monster-esque behemoth, though with more intelligence off the bat than the inspiration, bent on world domination.
Lastly we have ghosts making the scene and helping our heroes to purge the scum of Konrad from their sacred site.

To start wrapping up, I have to say Okon balances all of these continuing threads and sets up so many potential future storylines with surprising ease.
It’s hard to put into words and not make it sound like a supreme clusterfuck trainwreck, you really need to witness the execution to understand and appreciate the plates this dude is spinning.
The relationship between Wyatt and Carter is the best arc this go around.
They sort of head back to square one after the quantum leap forward at the end of book one.
At the end of this book, there is no going back again and that’s a good thing.
And Wyatt walking off into the darkness at the end sets up so many potential futures, I can’t wait to see where it goes.

The truth is, while not my favorite book series, I’m fully on board with this saga.
He definitely upped the game and went full tilt post-apocalypse, which is the logical step and bonus points because he pulled it off.
There are slight changes I would have made, I would definitely slow down the pace and spread these stories over a couple days instead of doing the 1 story in 1 day format.
But it does work as is.
Even as all of the heaviness settles in, it still has a tension breaking lightness that makes it accessible.
I repeat what I said last time: “half of me wants to say run out and grab this now, but the other half of me wants to tell you to hold off until book 3 comes out.
I think you’ll devour these 1st 2 fast and immediately be hungry for more.”
Now I have to start the long wait for book 3.
Damn you, Okon!

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Special thanks to @acferrell1976 for her editorial help.