I read not one but two Lord John novellas. Lord John is a character from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon who has his own spin-off series. Gabaldon fans seem to be divided into 2 camps regarding this series: well, at least this will tide me over until the next Jamie and Claire instalment in 2121, or dammit, where’s Jamie, woman?!
Lord John isn’t tied to the the Frasers like so many other characters. He gets to flit around the world solving people’s problems and occasionally gets a little something-something. In The Custom of Army, after a electric eel party (yes, an electric eel party) goes awry, Lord John feels the need to flee the country. Conveniently, he’s needed in Quebec, where an old friend is fighting for his life and against corruption.
A Plague of Zombies finds Lord John in Jamaica, where once again corruption is the culprit. The Governor is hiding from zombies, not “braaaaaaaiiiiiins!” zombies but the ones created by shaman to commit acts of vengeance.
I enjoyed A Plague of Zombies more than The Custom of the Army. The latter seemed to veer off from the main plot. I don’t even remember the main plot really. It was all over the place. It seemed like an excuse to get Lord John near Wolfe and the Plains of Abraham, a controversial battle for Canadians, and for John to hear him exclaim some of his famous quotes. Lord John also enjoys a brief romance with Manoke, well, more like a fling since the structure of the story doesn’t allow the reader or John to get to know him that well.
A Plague of Zombies is a shorter story but straighter in narrative. Lord John arrives, hears there’s a problem, and sets out to fix it. During his stay in Jamaica, he learns a little about the culture of the non-British inhabitants, including the particulars of zombie making. And just for fun, Gabaldon has him encounter another Outlander character, the notorious Geillis Duncan. Some readers might find the inclusion of zombies gimmicky, but since the people zombified here represent traditional zombies and not the George Romero version, I didn’t mind it. Gabaldon writes in her notes that she found inspiration for the story in The Serpent and the Rainbow.
I wouldn’t say either of these were my favorite Lord John stories but I still enjoyed reading them. They made a plane trip bearable.