Thursday, December 16, 2010
Handling the Undead and others
Handling the Undead
John Ajvide Lindqvist
The odd weather in Stockholm has had a strange effect on the city’s power grid especially an abrupt significant surge. Soon after the surge, the recently departed return to life. Many of the living are euphoric to see their loved ones. Others are not pleased. Some pray for a reanimation as they wait with hope.
David the comedian has mixed feelings when his beloved wife returns from the dead. Elderly reporter Gustav Mahler worries about him and his daughter not moving on passed the death of his grandson; he hopes for a return so he disinters the body from the lad’s grave.
This is a brilliant psychological horror thriller that looks at love and death by analyzing the return of the undead from the perspective of family members and the reanimated corpse. Readers will appreciate the actions and reactions of those living when those dead come back from the grave. Although the story line slows down under the weight of the profound psychological analysis of love and death, fans will relish the reflective story line; wondering of the essence of a person’s soul when they were alive the first time would return as them from the grave.
At a Richmond hospital nurses like Mercy Lynch do everything from patient care to scrubbing blood from laundry. It is in the laundry room; Clara Barton finds Mercy and informs her that her husband died in a POW camp. Mentally and physically exhausted, Mercy receives a telegram from the Pacific Northwest informing her that her father was recently injured and dying. He wants to see her one last time.
Though estranged, Mercy decides to take the dangerous trip across the continent to Seattle in the Washington territories. The trek by rail and air across the war ravaged Confederacy to St. Louis is dangerous and the dirigible she rides crash lands after shots punctured it. In St. Louis, Mercy boards the steam engine Dreadnaught heading to Tacoma. On the Union train, Mercy meets Texas Ranger Horatio Korman who has an undercover mission he conceals form her. The trip West of the Mississippi proves dangerous though most of the Civil War battles are on the other side of the mighty river. Confederate soldiers attack, which makes Mercy wonder what cargo they carry in the forbidden cars. Worse a Mexican zombie unit assaults the train. Used to death but not the undead, Mercy may be weary, but the intrepid female vows soldiers, rangers, zombies and other ilk will not prevent her from achieving her personal quest.
The sequel to Boneshaker, Dreadnaught is a super steampunk Civil War fantasy. The courageous bone tired Mercy, who overcomes her PTSD, keeps the exciting story line focused. However, it is Cherie Priest’s grim dark 1860s Americana landscape including the aptly named train that makes for a great harrowing historical thriller. Harriet Klausner
Stars and Gods
The intent apparently is to enable the reader to have a smorgasbord of the works and ideas of award winning Larry Niven over the past six years. Parts of the tome are refreshing; ironically the nonfiction articles especially in Part Three and somewhat in Part Nine are the best inclusions. The extracts highlighting the worlds of the novels (solo or in collaboration) are also well written, but needed more insight as to what led Mr. Niven and partners to come up with concepts like Ringworld. The short stories are also fun to read especially the two from Draco Tavern. However, extracting one or two chapters from ten novels makes no sense even to introduce new readers to one of the greats of science fiction made even less appealing at hardcover prices. Harriet Klausner