Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Soulless

Christopher Golden, 2008, MTV Books

To begin with a confession: I picked this book up at random, knowing absolutely nothing about it, in a deliberate effort to expand my genre reading beyond my usual predilection for apocalyptic zombie literature. But maybe the Dark Forces don’t want me to expand my reading, ‘cos guess what? It’s another apocalyptic zombie novel! Spooky...

As the novel opens, the first-ever mass séance (presided over by a number of famous mediums) is being broadcast live from the set of Sunrise in New York. The intention is to open a window to the Other Side, through which the spirits of the dead may communicate with their loved ones for a brief time. Of course, it’s really all just a ratings-grabbing publicity stunt, and, of course, it all goes horribly wrong as the mediums slip into a catatonic state, and all over Manhatten the walking dead rise from their graves to devour the living.

I quite enjoyed this book. Soulless appears to be aimed at a YA readership, despite including a certain level of gore and various adult themes; horror for the Buffy generation. The plot is extremely simple (resolution of the situation depending upon the performance of one specific act, made clear fairly early on in the tale), and will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a modern zombie movie; the characters are – while not entirely stereotypical – certainly ‘viewer friendly’ and easily recognisable; the prose is clear and easy to read (not a criticism, by the way); and the themes boil down to the old favourite of all apocalyptic zombie tales: is survival worth giving up your humanity for?

The verdict? Soulless is a light piece of summer reading for horror fans. If you think of Stephen King as the genre equivalent of Shakespeare, then Christopher Golden is Jodi Picoult. Fun, pacey, and ultimately disposable.

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