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Book Review: Dead Things, By Stephen Blackmoore


Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 08:02

Dead Things is not for the faint of heart. While written violence certainly has a different effect than that in movies or TV shows, Blackmoore has a way with words that could make even a strong stomach turn. Between the brutal killings, black magic and questionable lifestyles choices, Dead Things isn’t anybody’s bedtime story. However, it’s a great read.

Blackmoore’s leading man, Eric Carter, can interact with dead people. He can see them, talk to them and control them. Given this gruesome ability and consequent immersion in the universe’s more vile secrets, it’s understandable that Carter’s moral coloring is a darker shade of gray. It’s his rougher edges that make him a fantastic character.

Carter doesn’t whine. Like most hardened-criminal protagonists, he has some demons to deal with, but he doesn’t cry about his hardships to the reader. In 295 pages he loses his sister and several friends in the most atrocious ways, and he spends a few measly paragraphs mourning his losses. He spends the rest of the time killing things in the most visceral and creative ways.

One of the best aspects of Blackmoore’s storytelling is his expertise with writing magic. Unlike many fantasy writers, he doesn’t spend pages upon pages explaining the laws of his universe to the reader. Since the concept of magic is largely illogical, he doesn’t waste time trying to make us understand how or why it works. 

Blackmoore’s magic has a natural, organic feel, much more similar (albeit much darker) to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus than the Harry Potter series.

His world is imbued with gritty, disturbing detail and wonderful complexity. In his universe, all spirits and deities have a place. Carter deals with everything from
voodoo spirits to South American goddesses.

Magic is in smells, objects, memories, people and places. This attention to detail andimainative intricacy makes Carter’s Los Angeles hometown completely alien yet convincing.

Blackmoore doesn’t waste much time with secondary characters, which only helps the reader step into Carter’s shoes a little more. Carter’s parents were burned alive, his sister viciously murdered, so a lack of attachment to the few other people in his life is only a natural mechanism. Besides the horrors he has seen in this world, his view into the world of the dead only makes him more callous and desensitized to suffereing.

However, Carter doesn’t talk about how callous he is. Blackmoore doesn’t tell the reader the character’s conscious is seared. Instead, we are shown how hardened he has become, and it’s done so casually we don’t even realize it. It isn’t until the end of the book that we might take a step back and realize Carter is a pretty awful person, but we like him anyway.

Plot occasionally falls by the wayside in this story, but Carter’s universe is so violently exotic it’s hard to care. Dead Things is the epitome of fast-paced, nitty-gritty, hard-hitting urban fantasy. Don’t pass it up.

4/5 stars

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