Nichols stifled a laugh. “Yeah, sure. Undead virgins buried in the desert, right? They rise and feed on human flesh when there’s–what is it again? A full moon? An eclipse? Nothing good on TV?”
The best thing about Adam Mansbach’s THE DEAD RUN is that you are not familiar with the legend of the Virgin Army. Or probably any of the meso-American shenanigans threaded through this high-octane homage to cult movies.
We’ve got a sick cult and a charismatic leader who bathes in blood, a hot sweet young lady on the run from evil helped by a hot sweet young guy looking to be a hero, corrupt cops and vigilantes on either side of the contested Mexican-American border, an unfairly imprisoned antihero forced into (and trying to figure his way out of) a nasty task for a mysterious prison ganglord (someone contact Danny Trejo’s agent), and guns blazing, and death and some more death and then some more death. And zombie virgins. Mansbach delights in the extravagant boozy buzz of sleazy pulp trash.
And — hey! — so do I! So why wasn’t I in love? Well, although Mansbach pours in a few ingredients you haven’t seen on previous pub crawls, it’s still poured into the same grimy glass, and the buzz fades into hangover all too quickly.
While not a bad book, and written with enough pizzazz to pass a few hours without a lot of regrets, the cocktail seems too often flat or the taste of the thing just a bit off. The cheesy tough-guy dialogue seems too self-consciously cheesy and/or uncreative — where Jonathan Janz riffed on old B-movie tropes in ways that had all kinds of fizz, Mansbach’s novel seems like some of the Syfy versions of same: all corny syrup, no carbonation.
“He’s literally covered in blood, Sheriff.”
Nichols slid back against the seat until they were face-to-face. “No, he’s not. What you mean is that he’s figuratively covered in blood. Figurative is the exact opposite of literal. You’re using the single most incorrect word in the entire English language.”
Silence. He could feel her stewing beside him.
“I see my mistake now. . . . See, I thought you were the police. I didn’t realize you were just the grammar police.”
. . . Nichols couldn’t help but laugh.
I could. Maybe I’m humorless, but despite some neat gee-whiz details in the content of its plot (that undead Virgin Army), THE DEAD RUN felt to me more like a long walk. —Mike Reynolds