How to review a book that is unquestionably excellent at what it’s trying to do, but which I didn’t finish? Happy Hour of the Damned is, in short, shallow, disgusting, infuriating, and damned good at it.
Happy Hour stars Amanda Feral, a fashion-obsessed zombie. Zombies, in Mark Henry‘s world, can stay well-preserved forever as long as they eat a steady diet of human flesh. There’s only one other thing zombies can consume without getting violently ill: booze. The story follows Amanda through an unlife of trendy clubs and cannibalism. Every outfit, every bit of interior decoration, and every putrid bodily excretion is described in excruciating detail. Henry’s heroine is far from sympathetic (superficial, selfish, racist), but he does a great job with her, never breaking character. Even her habit of making herself sick on purpose by eating regular food is in character. (Amanda had an eating disorder in life.)
It’s all played for campy laughs, though the response it elicited from me was less “ha ha” and more “He did not just go THERE, did he? Oh, yes, he did.” Imagine the most label-conscious chick lit novel combined with urban fantasy, add heaps of gross-out toilet humor, and you’ve got Happy Hour of the Damned.
I actually stuck with Happy Hour longer than I thought I would. I kept resolving to put it down, only to read on to the next chapter to see what envelope Henry would push next. What finally stopped me was actually a pacing issue. Chapters 1-3 take place in the present, then chapters 4-11 are a flashback to the past, in which Amanda remembers her death and her acclimation to zombie-hood. When the novel jolted abruptly back to the present after eight chapters of flashback, I realized two things: one, I’d forgotten all about the present-day plot, and two, I was more interested in “Amanda gets used to being a zombie” than I was in the present-day plot. On the heels of those two realizations, it occurred to me that if I didn’t really care about the main plot of the book, maybe it was time to put it down. I think Henry might have done better by stretching Amanda’s “initiation” out into a novel of its own, then making the other plot its sequel, or maybe by interspersing present with past more evenly.
If you haven’t made up your mind whether to attempt Happy Hour of the Damned, try this on for size, keeping in mind that this is one of the less explicit “potty” moments:
My biggest problem was another puddle, a yellow one. I could smell the musty tartness before I felt or saw. I was sitting in it. I must have been really out of it, to relieve myself in silk Versace. At the very least, I was thankful that I’d already voided the donut binge — four cups of coffee helped — and other than my pride, nothing else seemed to be broken, not even a heel.