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The Panama Laugh--book review

The Panama Laugh by Thomas S. Roche grabs you by the throat and punches you in the face from beginning to end, and I mean that in a good way. The story begins around six weeks after a world-wide zombie apocolypse had occured. Our hero, a contractor/mercenary named Dante "Frosty" Bogart, finds himself completely naked in the middle of the jungle with no recollection of the past five years. Frosty--but don't call him that--must find his friends and a place to survive while piecing together his past. Oh, and if he could figure out what part he played in the collapse of society, that would be great. And if he could do all that while avoid bites from laughers--Roche's zombies can't stop laughing--that would be the icing on the end-of-the-world cake.

There is a lot to like here. The voice is perfect, as are the characters. The pacing doesn't give you much breathing room, which I liked. The structure of the narrative is confusing at times--it shifts between flashbacks and the here-and-now with rapidity--and so the lack of chapter breaks adds a kink into the otherwise bad-ass armor. Roche doesn't hold back on the gore level, which I appreciated, but at the same time I didn't feel it was ever gratuitous. If anything, I would have liked for the author to go deeper into the devestation. Dante isn't an emotional guy--hence the nickname--and so the lack of emotional connection to the loss of humanity made sense. I would have liked to have seen some sort of recognition of this on Dante's part--that this cold-hearted killer found his own humanity just as most everyone else in the world lost theirs.

But that's a minor quibble. The Panama Laugh is an enjoyable roller-coaster ride that will leave you satisfied--if a bit shaky--when you're done.

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May 2013


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