In a future Chicago, when bionic chips have turned some humans into zombielike creatures, a young woman fights her way to possible sanctuary.
Some 70 years from now, widening social inequality has divided those living in the States (what’s left of America after California secedes) between those who qualify for MINK health coverage and those who don’t—such as Tasha Lockett, college dropout and salesgirl for a high-end mall’s designer pet store. Without MINK, she can’t get a Chip, the tiny neck-implanted device that prevents and cures all ailments. But then comes the Change: One morning, everyone with a chip is suddenly transformed into a swaying, grunting, zombielike eater of human flesh. The Minkers, as Tasha calls them, are easy enough to kill—she dispatches her doorman with a nail file—but they’re everywhere. A scribbled note from Tasha’s sister in California, postmarked two weeks before the Change, reads “Get to South Side ASAP….Dr. Rio can help. Find him. Come to LA.” Armed with a kitchen knife and toting her Prada backpack, Tasha makes a dangerous journey through Minker-haunted Chicago. When she learns Rio’s full plans, she realizes the battle is only just beginning. In the crowded field of dystopian/post-apocalyptic/zombie fiction, Cole doesn’t add much that’s new besides an interesting social-justice angle: Unusually for the genre, Tasha is of mixed race; Minkers tend to be white. Cole impressively plots Tasha’s growth: At first, she’s obsessed with fashion and style—at one point, she leaves a potential ally unprotected so she can do her makeup—but as life-and-death situations force her to reconsider priorities, Tasha can no longer answer a question such as “What’s so special about Prada?” except to conclude that “it was something to love, I guess.” Cole makes excellent use of her Chicago setting, and she brings out the spookiness of her premise with haunting images of ordinary people gone mindlessly bad. Despite a lot of action, though, the book moves somewhat slowly while leaving many questions unanswered, no doubt due to a planned sequel.
Solid character development strengthens a familiar plot.