Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Dead America

Luke Keioskie, Severed Press, 2009

Life's tough in America. Especially when you're dead. Minimum wage, biotic bigotry, rotting flesh. Against this backdrop, private investigator Jon Faraday has taken on the task of tracking down a runaway girl. Easy money. But when the girl turns up dead - truly dead; the first person in twenty years who didn't 'relive' - Jon finds himself drawn into a world of undead gangsters, zombie sex-workers, and a covert experiment that may see simmering tensions between pro- and anti-zombie interests explode into all-out warfare on the streets of New York City.

Let me say right from the outset that I enjoyed Dead America enormously; the story rolls along at a cracking pace, through countless twists, turns and surprises, to a bittersweet conclusion; the characters - while leaning dangerously close to cliche at times - are engaging and, if not alway likeable, entertaining at least. Prose and dialogue are competently handled. The background of this world, in which everyone reanimates shortly after death, and the walking dead are assigned the role of the disenfranchised (as in S. G. Brown's Breathers) is fairly well-realised, with even the massive infodumps doled out by the viewpoint protagonist somewhat forgiveable in that they are a staple of the 'hard-boiled PI' subgenre.

That said, there were two niggling issues that unfortunately prevented my complete enjoyment of Dead America; firstly, the author seems compelled to constantly remind us of basic plot and character information that has already been stated (such as the fact that the dead girl is 'really' dead); secondly, there's a major inconsistency regarding zombie 'biology', with the dead regularly referred to as being able to 'exist forever' on the one hand, but plagued by rot on the other. Mutually incompatible states, surely? Both issues, for me, became highly irritating before I'd even read a quarter of the way through Dead America; that said, it speaks volumes of the strengths of the novel that I was unable to put this book down.

Dead America is a wonderful, if flawed, zombie novel, and should please most fans of the subgenre.

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