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Ghost Train to New Orleans is the second in the Shambling Guide Series by Mur Lafferty. Continuing with the world building that Lafferty does so well, the story follows Zoë Norris and several of her coworkers to New Orleans as they write their second travel book for coterie, which the readers would more commonly know as monsters. The world building that Lafferty does really the magic, taking things with which the reader is familiar and putting a special twist on them.
As it had been a while since I had read the first book in the series, A Shambling Guide to New York, I binge reread it to spin me up for diving into Ghost Train upon the latter’s release. Obviously, based on my words above, I appreciate the story telling and world building. Lafferty delivers some unique characters, particularly secondary characters, that are fun to read. There are several instances that remind me well of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, particularly with some of the secondary characters.
During the story, in addition to learning more about the unofficial coterie capital of the United States, Zoë learns more about her own capabilities and her place in the coterie world. This leads to some parts of the story that are a bit more introspective than the first book, which had to explain how things worked between coterie and humans to set the stage for the series. This speeds the plot up more than the first book too. Overall, the plot is compelling, although a bit disjointed on occasion. The true joy is following Zoë through parts of a city I’ve visited, particularly Jackson Square. I found the characters all well motivated for their actions and behaviors.
I put this on par with the first, each having their own strengths and weaknesses, as happens in a series. This was not a second in a series where I really wondered what happened to the protagonist’s personality – which seems to happen in many other series – because of giant character trait changes, and I greatly appreciate that fact. This was a book where the protagonist grows as she learns about the (new) world she is living in, and the reader learns more as that knowledge expands. There is lots of humor here and I rather enjoy it. I greatly anticipate the next book in the series, set in London, and wish Lafferty much continued success!
Mur Lafferty's "The Shambling Guide to New York City" was a quirky and funny twist on the rapidly-growing-stale ("staling"?) urban fantasy genre. Her follow-up novel, "Ghost Train to New Orleans" is inevitably less of a revelation, but, despite being a bit packed with chaos, it's still a fun journey.
Lafferty's world is full of vampires, zombies, voodoo priestesses, golem-makers, demons, and a wide variety of other supernatural "coterie" that regular humans are too oblivious to notice. In the first book, young, unemployed travel writer Zoe stumbles into the editorship of a tourist guide to New York City aimed at coterie. In the course of producing the guide, she also gets seduced by an incubus, survives a minor zombie apocalypse, and acquires a zombie-bitten boyfriend. The boyfriend, coincidentally, is also her neighbor and an employee of Public Works, the human agency that interfaces with the coterie -- sometimes, with extreme prejudice.
Zoe's next project is pretty much what the book's title says: Take a ghost train to New Orleans, then write a guide to the city. To no reader's surprise, this will not turn out to be a simple thing. I won't spoil any of the shenanigans by relating events out in any detail -- partly because there's a lot I can't remember -- but, basically, stuff happens. There's some ghostly robbers to deal with, an enigmatic city-talker to puzzle out, a surly vampire that wants Zoe dead, a missing cat, a very-likely-to-be-ex-boyfriend who lost his anti-zombie pills, a friendly god, a zoetist -- or maybe we should call her a voodoo priestess -- who wouldn't mind having Zoe for lunch, and an at-least-half-crazed city that wants to play games with Zoe's head.
The first book was a little bit of a mess. There was quite a lot going on, and a number of bits felt forced and unnecessary. The second book is even more of a mess. The book is still enjoyable and frequently surprising; it's just that not all of the surprises will be welcome. (Don't worry; nobody important dies.)
Bottom line: If you liked the first book, you should be pretty fond of the second as well.
Campbell award-winning author, Mur Lafferty takes all the creativity, fun and humour she brought to The Shambling Guide to New York City and takes it up a notch in The Ghost Train to New Orleans (The Shambling Guides #2).
The team from Underground Publishing make their way to New Orleans to write the follow-up to the successful Shambling Guide to New York City. But things go off the rails early for Editor-in-chief Zoe and her coterie colleagues when, after meeting a mysterious traveller, the ghost bullet train taking them to their destination is held up by, well, ghosts. And things don't improve when they arrive in the Big Easy as Zoe battles to keep her staff on track (read: not eat her), come to terms with her newfound ability to talk to cities and help save her boyfriend from turning into a zombie.
The characters were a real feature of this book and Lafferty lets us get to know Zoe and her team a lot better. She also gives readers a deeper insight into the coterie world she's created - which in hindsight; I would've liked to see more of in the first book. But this seems a deliberate move to take readers on the journey alongside Zoe.
Another strength of this story is the description of New Orleans - also a key character. Lafferty uses Zoe's incredibly cool city talking ability to breathe life into the city. As someone who's never been to New Orleans, I got a real sense of the place and the joy and sadness that's been experienced there.
The Ghost Train to New Orleans is a really fun read and Mur has left the door open to take this story just about anywhere. I'm really looking forward to whatever comes next from this author.
Do yourself a favour, go pick up a copy and read it immediately.
This is a lighter take on the vampire/zombie fantasy genre. It is for the most part entertaining and a fun read. If you are looking for something in the vein of the "Walking Dead" then this is not your book. This is a more tongue in cheek take on the urban fantasy genre, in my opinion. I like the sassy nature of the main character. The cast of vampires, zombies, and third-rate gods is fun. I have read both books in this series. I wish that there was a follow up to this one because I am curious to how she would develop this main character more.
First things first - I read this book out of order. That is to say I read it before The Shambling Guide to New York City, which chronologically takes place before Ghost Train to New Orleans. As such, there was a minor bit of spoilage on my part for the first book by reading book two first, but hey - I kinda knew that going in. You can't really expect to be spoiler-free when you read things out of order.
That being said, I really enjoyed this book. The premise is that there are supernatural folks out there in the world - vampires, zombies, magic-users and ghosts - and they like to travel too. Luckily, we have our human editor Zoe who works for a supernatural publishing company that provides travel guides to inhuman masses. Her latest assignment is to travel from NYC to The Big Easy on the high-speed Ghost Train with her writing team and do the groundwork and research for the definitive travel book for non-humans.
Zoe's character gets a bit more development from what we apparently learned in the first book, which is a fun evolution we get to watch happen. Along the way she meets new foes and allies and somehow always ends up in the middle of many happenings, not all of which involve eating Beignets or trolling Bourbon Street.
This was a fairly fast read, and a lot of fun. I've plopped down my dollars for the first book and am eager to read it. I really hope this series continues, since there's an enormous amount of potential, with a great universe being established and continually refined with numerous well-thought details.
Not as good as its predecessor - a bit too over-the-top on geek/pop-culture references that makes for a forced feeling - but still a ton of fun and Zoe Norris remains one of the best 'genre' heroes out there.