Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Books Received; Brian Keene – The Rising; City of the Dead

Posted by Mike on November 20, 2006

  • Brian Keene – City of the Dead
  • Bentley Little – The Revelation
  • Richard Laymon – The Cellar
  • Kirsten Bakis – Lives of the Monster Dogs

The two novels listed by Brian Keene are two halves of a whole. The end chapter (no. 23 no less) of The Rising and chapter 1 of City of the Dead are basically identical, the latter having a bit of explanatory editing to introduce people coming half way in. Keene’s work, unsurprisingly, owes a great deal to the horror genre through Stephen King. The Rising and City are both zombie novels, although the zombies in Keene’s work aren’t the Romero kind, but are basically demons inhabiting corpses.

In fact Keene’s work is more or less a B movie put to a book. You get non-stop, pulse-pounding action that only really lets up for a bit in the second of the two books. The writing at the sentence level is a bit awkward and the book revels in cliches, the father who wants to save his kid (almost identical in goal to the Lebbon novella I read a few weeks ago), the tough ex-prostitute, the preacher man etc. In fact, it wouldn’t be too difficult to pick these books apart at the seams, but it would be ignoring the fact that they’re really great fun.

Perhaps the reason why books like this work is because the prose is somewhat invisible, it’s designed to keep the plot moving fast and one isn’t inclined to reread sentences except when you’re trying to figure out something clumsy. The plot, as mentioned before, starts in an underground bunker after the dead has started rising. Our protagonist Jim Thurmond gets an unexpected phone call from his young son living with his mother and stepfather several states away. Already about to give up, it gives Thurmond the courage to go after him.

Thurmond’s exploits remind me a bit of the episodic nature of Lansdale’s Drive-In books. Bad things happen, people are traumatized, worse things happen. Thurmond meets up with survivors, realizes that demon-possessed cadavers aren’t the only bad thing about the apocalypse, and tries to figure out a universe that seems a weird mishmash of Christianity, new age and magic.

In fact there’s one message that seems pretty clear throughout the book. Science is responsible for the apocalypse. Magic might have saved the world had it not been totally forgotten (eh?). Faith is the only recourse, characterized by the preacher man, who quotes bible verses and declares they’re on a mission for God. It gets stronger as the picture grows bleaker and bleaker.

I don’t want to go too much into detail about events and can say very little about the second book, except that the first book ends on a cliffhanger and you need book 2 to see if Thurmond saves his son. Apparently this cliffhanger really bothered the fans at the time, but not enough to deny The Rising its Bram Stoker Award for First Novel. I found myself a little distracted by the books’ theology and the awkward prose, but for the most part it’s one long action romp through a nightmare that keeps getting worse, each episode making you want to know what happens next.

The other thing about these books is you can read them fast. 300-350 page books disappear in a night or two. Which may be why I’m trying to knock out Laymon’s _The Cellar_. At that point I’ll probably need something a little more edifying. Or maybe a lot.

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