Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dead Set by Richard Kadrey

As a Harper Voyager, I was sent a lovely package of wonderful books, and I've been reading them (albeit slowly) ever since. As I work about two hours from where I live, I don't have much spare time to read, and when I cracked open my copy of Dead Set by Richard Kadrey, I had no idea what to expect. I've never read anything by Kadrey before and my expectations were glued to what the back blurb said.

Fast-forward about four hours, and I'm almost done with the book. Another two, and BAM, another one bites the dust. This manuscript was well-paced, there were very few errors (I counted two; on page 44 (I think) Absynth was referred to as a 'he' and I can't quite recall the other one, so it was fairly minor), and the main character was wonderfully likable. Of course, she made dumb mistakes, but c'mon...mistakes are how a story moves forward and how a character learns lessons, and learn she did! It always aggravates me when a character doesn't learn something. In this case, Zoe learned a great deal about herself, about coping with death, and about how the world works.

For those not in the know, here's the blurb:

After her father's funeral, Zoe moved to the big city with her mother to start over. But change always brings trials, and life in the city is not so easy. Money is tight, and Zoe's only escape, as has always been the case, is in her dreams—a world apart from her troubled real life where she can spend time with her closest companion: her lost brother, Valentine.

But something or someone has entered their dreamworld uninvited. And a chance encounter at a used record store, where the vinyl holds not music but lost souls, has opened up a portal to the world of the restless dead. It's here that the shop's strange proprietor offers Zoe the chance to commune with her dead father. The price? A lock of hair. Then a tooth. Then . . .

This manuscript came at a particularly difficult time in my personal life. Last year, I lost five people in my life, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and my father was the only one in my family's house who was employed...and of course, we were all terrified for his health. None of us would say it, but the thought was ever there. Despite my tears while reading this novel and absolutely "getting" everything Zoe said and felt, I fell in love with everything from the prose to the dialogue, from the major characters to minor villains. Kadrey...well, he will stick with me for a long time, thanks to this amazing work.

If you're into dark fantasy, horror, or just want a YA novel that won't make you think it's all about finding true love, then this is your pick. The male lead opposing Zoe was artfully drawn out, and he took an interesting role in Zoe's life. I won't spoil it, but it made me consider other YA novels of the same genre and what those authors might learn from Kadrey's artful storytelling.