Priest, Cherie. Not Flesh nor Feathers. New York City: Tor. (2007) Print
It all started with a little lie and turned into a zombie killing spree. In her third book starring spirit seer, Eden Moore, Priest uses simple jealousy to create a much bigger problem. Thirty years ago, a little girl told a lie to the Klan and as a result, the Klan torched a church with its people inside. When it became apparent everyone in the church did not die in the fire, they wrapped the bodies in chains and dropped them into the Tennessee River. Throughout the years, whenever the river overflows its banks, people disappear under mysterious circumstances only to be found drowned later. Due to heavy rains in the Tennessee Valley area, the city of Chattanooga is flooding and the creatures are using the flooding to get out among the people.
While the word zombie automatically conjures up slow moving creatures with zero intelligence, that is not exactly the case with the creatures Priest presents. While they are indeed slow moving and there is little intelligence in them, they are driven by a childish malevolence, relentless in its search for revenge. The sad part is, the person responsible for all of these deaths is now dead herself, a victim of suicide thanks to her own guilt. Charlotte, the ghost in question, is now trapped in the hotel her family once owned where she committed her suicide. It is this hotel in downtown Chattanooga the zombies are trying to get to.
Eden is once again drawn in through little fault of her own. She is asked to visit the spirit trapped in the hotel to find out if there is a way to get it to leave. The insane ramblings of the spirit and her thoroughly violent reaction to Eden open the door to further investigation. Meanwhile, the river is rising and people are disappearing, though no one is paying much attention to it thanks to the nature of the victims, vagrants and homeless people. However, that willful blindness is broken by the appearance of the creatures, half-burned monsters with no interest in anything other than killing whoever comes near.
My favorite part of the book is the limitations placed on the zombies. They are tied to the water, so they literally cannot come more than a few feet out of the water for most of their time in the narrative. That made for an interesting exploitable weakness for a short time.
Then of course there is the obvious joke about video games where you can kill zombies with a single headshot. I always found that a little strange because really, if there is no intelligence running the show, what difference does it make if you blow a zombie’s head off? Priest went there.
All together, I found “Not Flesh nor Feathers” to be an entertaining read. Priest once again offers us a main character with normal problems along with some decidedly not normal ones while balancing a complex narrative with simpler cause and effect as well as a lively sense of humor.