The Great Undead Uprising of 1870 devastated the western frontier and destroyed the Indian Nations. Though the Army was able to contain the menace before it could devour the entire country, the United States lost claim to her western territories as the survivors fled to the relative safety of the east coast.
Samantha Martin is among the rare folks traveling west, seeking asylum within the infected territories. Running from a past that threatens to consume her, the young Sam dons the mantle of a male and hides in an all boys’ workhouse that borders these Badlands. From there she is thrust into the service of the skin trade; the terrible deed of trapping and skinning zombies for profit. The work is grueling and perilous, but along the way she finds out what it takes to be a man, why she misses being a woman, but most of all she learns what it means to be human.
Can Sam keep her masquerade up long enough to flee the Badlands, or will the outlaws that rule the western frontier find out she’s female before she can escape?
I enjoy zombie fiction – I don’t know why that is since I have such a hard time watching zombie horror films. Skin Trade has a pretty interesting concept. Its set in the Old West and there is a high price on zombie skins. So trappers actually go out and hunt, trap, skin and cure the hides of zombies. What’s worse is that people actually buy things made from these skins! You can see why I would be interested, I’ve read books where hunting and trapping of zombies happens but never one where they are skinned for merchandise.
The story moves along at a brisk enough pace and I did enjoy it because it was interesting. However, I thought the villain was way too obvious, there was however more than one villain in this tale – and I really found the first one to be more of a baddie then the second one. I don’t know why but he just seemed a bit lack luster to me.
Quite a few times I found the protagonist Sam annoying. She was constantly questioning things, which undoubtedly gets her into trouble a lot but that didn’t bother me so much. What didn’t fit for me was the characters “voice” – she is supposed to be about 15 and yet she reads to me like a 25 to 30 year old woman. Now I get that educated young women back in those days likely seemed much older than say a teenager during our time frame. Regardless this was a sticking point for me.
Overall, it was a quick interesting read. I remember reading another western zombie book last year called Portlandtown – A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes – and I think this one beats out that one hands down.
Tabitha the Pabkins
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