Monday 27 April 2015

REVIEW: John Palisano - Dust of the Dead

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication Date: 2nd June 2015
Pages: 217


I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is published by Samhain Publishing.

The only thing I have read previously by John Palisano was his short story in Widowmakers, Splinterette and his novel Nerves. I absolutely loved both of them so I was really excited to get the opportunity to review this one early with NetGalley. I can’t help but feel a little bit robbed and disappointed.

Mike has just recently started working for the Reclamation Crew in Los Angeles. It’s been 5 years since the first outbreak of the “zoms”. His job now is to work with his fellow crew members and investigate reports of “undead” that may be going through the process of coming back. Generally things have settled down and LA is getting back to normal. The undead are getting fewer.

Mike and his team have noticed a change in the zoms though. They are getting smarter. Smarter to the point of actually being intelligent and being able to interact with society. This causes new problems for the world and it doesn’t take long for a new outbreak that threatens man’s very existence again.

A zombie apocalypse tale with a difference. That’s how I, and many others see this book. Not your normal run of the mill “zombies running around eating everything in their path” type book. Refreshing. Opportunities to make this an epic, new zombie genre possibly? It has all the ingredients for it. Sadly for me it just doesn’t deliver. I’m really sad about this. I loved Mr Palisano’s previous stuff I have read. They were also “different”. Different styles which were, again, refreshing. It seems to be a trademark of his to write stuff within a genre but challenging the very boundaries of the genre and not conforming to the normal “rules” if you like.

A few things let this one down for me. The characters were pretty nondescript. Our “hero” Mike was no more a hero than I would have been in the story. He was ordinary, but the ordinary normally become the extraordinary in these types of stories, getting you totally behind them and rooting for them till the very end. He was none of this. In fact in some parts of the story I was shouting “what are you doing man” at him. When the chips were down he sort of hid away in a cowardly fashion and shied away from things that normal decent people would have jumped to do. I ended up not really liking him very much.
I almost felt the other characters were there just to make the numbers up. None of them stood out as either capable allies or adversaries.

In terms of action in the story I didn’t feel it either. It more or less trundled along. There were no big epic scenes that took your breath away or left you gasping for more, scrambling to turn the pages to see what happened next. The horror was there but nothing that scared the pants off you or made you hide behind a cushion while you were reading it. It had potential for so much more.

To summarise: I feel guilty and a bit bad for giving purely negative feelings on this one because I have loved John Palisano’s previous work but it just didn’t have “it” for me. It had the exciting “difference” in how the normal zombie story is approached but I felt it didn’t take advantage of that difference and exploit it to its full potential. It felt rushed to me. Needs more action. Needs more horror. Needs to expand on a new take on the genre.

General rating:

★★.5 It held my attention but, for me, could have been a lot better.

Horror rating:

★★ Not very scary at all I'm afraid.

You can buy Dust of the Dead here:

Book Synopsis:

Reboot the apocalypse!

For a while, it looked like the living had won. The war against the walking dead lasted almost a decade, but it’s mostly over. There are only a few straggling zombies left to take care of. Los Angeles has returned to its lattes and long commutes. It’s up to a small Reclamation Crew to clean up the Zoms left behind. But when the undead dry up, their skin turns to dust. Now the hot Santa Ana winds deliver a new threat…because the Zoms were only the beginning of something far worse.

John Palisano's short fiction has appeared in many places. Check out: Horror Library, Darkness On The Edge, Lovecraft eZine, Phobophobia, Lovecraft eZine, Terror Tales, Harvest Hill, Halloween Spirits, the Bram Stoker Award® nominated Chiral Mad, Midnight Walk, Halloween Tales, and many other publications. NERVES was his first novel. He is working hard on its sequel, as well as many other upcoming works.

His non-fiction has appeared in FANGORIA and DARK DISCOVERIES, where he's interviewed folks like Robert Englund, director Rob Hall, and Corey Taylor from Slipknot.

Currently, DUST OF THE DEAD, his first book from Samhain Publishing, is coming out in June 2015 with more to come from that partnership in the near future.

His work has been cited by the Bram Stoker Award® three times.

"Available Light" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2013. "The Geminis" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2014. "Splinterette" was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® in 2015.

John's had a colorful history. He began writing at an early age, with his first publications in college fanzines and newspapers at Emerson in Boston. He's worked for over a decade in Hollywood for people like Ridley Scott and Marcus Nispel. He's recently been working as a ghost-screenwriter and has seen much success with over two dozen short story sales and his novel NERVES continues gaining critical and reader acclaim. There's more where that all came from. Lots more.

You can see more of John at his website.

John’s author page can be found here.

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