Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Dead Things


Dead Things
By Stephen Blackmoore
Format: ebook, 305 pages
Genre: urban fantasy/noir
Series: Eric Carter #1

Recommendation: FUCK YES. Am I allowed to say “fuck” here, Mel? Oh well. FUCK YES.

Synopsis: Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.

He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He's turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left LA fifteen years ago, he thought he'd never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him.

But now his sister's been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.

Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it's the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who's taken an unusually keen interest in him.

Carter's going to find out who did it, and he's going to make them pay.

As long as they don't kill him first.

First Sentence:  When I pull up to the bar, the truck kicking up dust and gravel behind me, I know it's already too late to help anyone.


My Thoughts and Summary:

Eric Carter is a necromancer, as you would gather from the blurb and title. He can see the dead, control the dead, and get rid of the dead if they’re causing a problem. Fifteen years prior to the start of the novel, he left everything behind after he killed out of revenge and his sister’s life was threatened if he didn’t skedaddle. So he left, lived his life as a necromancer for hire, until his sister’s murder pulls him back to California. And it just gets weirder from there.

This book, you guys.

THIS BOOK.

This book is what urban fantasy is supposed to be. It's dark. It's gritty. It's suspenseful. It's fun. It’s well-researched with an appropriately detailed world and thought-out magic system. The voice is comfortable and confident; immediately within the opening pages, I could settle in and get comfortable because it was clear the author knew what he was doing and that I was in for a good ride. The cast of characters is distinct and well-drawn; the baggage between Eric and those he left behind—a former girlfriend, a best friend, the antagonists—gives the novel a palpable tension.

Eric is my kind of protagonist: he’s badass while not being superhuman, he thinks quickly on his feet, he’s damaged and he makes mistakes, and I loved spending time in his head. The humor is dark and biting, my favourite kind.

“The thing I hate most about skeletons is you can never tell when they’re smiling.”

“If you can avoid it, I really have to recommend not having a gun go off next to your head.”

“I’m not sure if you’re a narcissist or just fucking stupid.” “Can I be both?”

The pacing is top-notch, smoothly transitioning from scene to scene with strong action sequences and just enough time to catch one’s breath in between. Dead Things is a grim, violent book with lots of coarse language, but none of it felt out of place. The gore and violence was appropriately unflinching while never feeling exploitive or unnecessary. You know what I mean? There are horror movies that linger on each gory bit, showing you the precise splatter of the blood and color of the entrails, and then there are horror movies that don’t turn the camera away but don’t dwell on it either. Dead Things fits into the latter. It is not for the squeamish, but if you appreciate unflinching honesty in your reading material, this book’s for you.

The magic system is detailed, consistent, and unique. One of my favourite things is that Blackmoore clearly knows his shit where the mythology was concerned. Afro-Caribbean faiths and practices are an interest of mine and I always get a little wary because ninety percent of the time an author mentions “voodoo” and their only point of reference seems to be The Serpent and the Rainbow. But Blackmoore incorporated aspects of vodou and the like in ways that remain true to their origin while twisting nicely into his own mythology.

And then there is Santa Muerte. I adored his depiction of The Holy Death—a sort of folk-saint not sanctioned by the church found in Mexico and throughout parts of the US, who had her origins in Mesoamerica as the god of underworld. In Dead Things, she’s batshit crazy, powerful, and not someone you want to fuck with.

(My Santa Muerte rosary. Because she’s a woman who means business. I am a fan.)


Perhaps the most staggering feat of all is that this book is written in first person present tense, and I didn’t hate it. Hell, I didn’t even notice. Normally that is a combo that has me immediately put down a book because I’ve seen it done badly so many times, but Blackmoore is firmly placed now in the small group of writers whose books I will read in first present (Chuck Wendig comes to mind, as does Ann Aguirre with her Jax series). He knows his craft and I will read anything he writes now because of it.

In short, you need to read this book. It is exceptionally well-written and a perfect first-in-a-series book that doesn’t waste time diving right into the world, resolves the main mystery, but leaves threads there for the next installment.

Speaking of...where is Eric Carter #2? SOMEONE RELEASE THIS BOOK AND TAKE MY MONEY.

Bitchstress Bechdel Bonus: Does it pass the Bechdel Test? In retrospect, I don’t think it did, but then it’s written in first person and a male POV, so I don’t fault it for that—logistically, it’s tougher.

Disclaimer: I know the author on Twitter but purchased the book for my own enjoyment and familiarity with the author did not impact my review.

4 comments:

  1. Um... I so want this series now. Even those that aren't published. Yes, you have me wanting them that much based on your review.

    Oh and I so want to see his take on Santa Muerte. Yes, I have heard of her. :)

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    Replies
    1. It's fantastic, I really can't recommend it enough. I've already yelled at Mel (My World) to get it because I'm bossy. ;-) Hopefully she'll get it in the new year and review too because I'm looking forward to her thoughts on it.

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    2. See Melissa! This is the love and torment I see on my blog. LOL!!

      Skyla, I got a gift card from a co-worker, so guess what I'll get when I get out shopping. ;)

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  2. it's a new book to me I didn't know this one but now I confess I'm curious mainly something about necromancer. thank you somuch for the discovery!

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