Filler content with no flesh nor feathers

This one appeared back in Black Static #3, hopefully in a manner not too dissimilar to how it’s shown here:-

Cherie Priest’s Not Flesh Nor Feathers (Tor paperback, 400pp, $14.95) is the third Eden Moore novel. Eden, for those not in the know, is a young lady with psychic powers (she can heal quickly and talk to spirits), and a resident of Chattanooga.

When street people start to disappear the authorities don’t take the matter seriously. A friend of Eden’s tries to involve her, but she doesn’t place much credence in his story of things coming out of the river, though it does tie in with her aunt’s misgivings about Eden’s plan to move into a riverside apartment. Another friend, TV news reporter Nick, enlists her aid when the resident ghost at the Read House hotel turns nasty, performing poltergeist attacks on Eden and others. Of course the two plot strands connect, and when the river rises to flood the city an army of zombies take to the streets, led by the restless spirit of a dead girl, with death and destruction following in their wake. It’s up to Eden to contend with tragedies both natural and supernatural, and put things back together as best she can.

Not Flesh Nor Feathers is a book with associations. Inevitably, as it concerns the flooding of a southern city, New Orleans will spring to mind, though Priest is at pains to point out in her afterword that the book was planned and sold before Katrina was anything more than a name, and while the writing took place afterwards it was not her intention to address that very real disaster in her fiction. Nonetheless, those events will inform any reading, and add a frisson of recognition as the waters rise and the authorities are shown as hopelessly unprepared, all their defences useless against the advancing tide, while human beings find themselves trapped and give in to panic. Other than that, with zombies in lieu of spectral pirates and a flood standing in for maritime precipitation, there are elements of the plot that could easily step into an identity line next to Carpenter’s The Fog. Similar themes of retribution for past injustice inform the book. Of course, Carpenter didn’t invent or have a monopoly on those concerns, and Priest more than makes them her own, adding racial intolerance to the mix. These twin associations, real and fictional, give Priest’s novel a solid grounding, one that will resonate for most readers.

Eden is an engaging character, every bit as likable here as in her initial outing, feisty and tolerant, but with an edge to her. Instead of being simply a pretext for super heroics and plot leaps, her abilities are portrayed convincingly in that they not only serve her well in the survival stakes but come with attendant self-doubt and pain. And she also has a memorable supporting cast, from street person Christ Adams to possible romantic interest Nick, through her overly protective aunt and uncle and estranged brother Malachi, who has more than his own share of past sins to atone for (and he does). Priest puts them through their paces with a skill that enables suspension of disbelief as the ever more fantastic elements of the plot unfold, with scenes of outright horror interlaced with quieter, more chilling interludes. Few readers will easily forget either the fury of the poltergeist attack on Eden or the chilling scene in the prologue where two young women hide in the loft of a flooded building and listen to dead hands knock against the boards beneath them, but these and other set pieces are simply the appetisers for Eden’s final frantic struggle against rising floodwaters and rampaging zombies.

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