- Michael Dempsey
Publisher: Night Shade Books
E-Arc with thanks to netgalley and Night Shade Books
In a world where death is a thing of the past, how far would you go to solve your own murder? NYPD detective Paul Donner and his wife Elise were killed in a hold-up gone wrong. Fifty years later, Donner is back: revived courtesy of the Shift. Supposedly the unintended side-effect of a botched biological terrorist attack and carried by a ubiquitous retrovirus, the Shift jump-starts dead DNA and throws the life cycle into reverse, so reborns like Donner must cope with the fact that they are not only slowly youthing toward a new childhood, but have become New York''s most hated minority. With New York quarantined beneath a geodesic blister, government and basic services have been outsourced by a private security corporation named Surazal. Reborns and infected norms alike struggle in a counterclockwise world, where everybody gets younger, you can see Elvis every night at Radio City Music Hall, and nobody has any hope of ever seeing the outside world. Lost in a sea of nostalgia, NYC becomes an inwardly focused schizophrenic culture of alienation and loss. In this backwards-looking culture where only some of the dead have returned, Donner is haunted by revivers guilt, and becomes obsessed with finding out who killed him and his non-returning wife. Little does he know, strange forces have already begun tracking him. Donner isn''t the only one obsessed with the past.
Forty years in the future and in New York a bio-weapon was released, allowing the dead to come back to life. Not as traditional zombies, but as humans who are de-aging. They start at the age they were when they died and then they get younger – shocks, alcohol, smoking all contribute to literally take years off their life until they regress through childhood and disappear as a newborn. This is the world that Paul Donner returns to after he and his wife are murdered on a night out. Struggling to adapt he decides to investigate his own murder forty years before...
The premise of this book is what initially attracted me. The idea of investigating your own murder may not be original, but Dempsey’s take on zombies is unique and I loved the idea of them de-aging – getting younger and younger. After all, they say youth is wasted on the young! How this impacts society is fascinating – with a husband de-aging and a wife growing old – how long can they make a relationship last? Entertainment dominated by re-animated stars – Elvis truly lives again!
However, the investigation side was very much a start/stop plot for me. Things would move in one direction so I felt like I was reading a hard-boiled noir detective novel set in the future, then it took a left turn and I was reading a freedom-fighting rebellion story and then it changed again and I was in a semi-mystical, family drama. This did provide twist and turns that made the story unexpected – but meant I never fully relaxed into the story. The writing was excellent and inventive. However, at times I wasn’t quite sure how this future worked. There is a lot of nostalgia for the past but in some areas I never quite got the future elements.
The ingenuity and originality is entertaining but massive story changes and some blurry details on the future world meant I couldn’t quite enjoy the story as much as I wanted too.
Recommended for fans of Christopher Fowler and Philip K. Dick. 6.5 out of 10
Go Team Zombie!