When I read Notes From a Necrophobe, I discovered a story that was gruesome and dark yet engaging and fun. I found a book that was surprisingly fresh in well-trodden territory. Many writers sit down at the computer and hope to create a unique zombie apocalypse story. T.C. Armstrong did that with her first one. This one turns all the right screws, becomes something different, and manages to be even better.
Those aren’t empty reviewer words you expect to read from someone hoping to get a blurb on a banner ad somewhere. I really mean it, and I’ll prove it.
There’s an interesting dismantling in the first act of this story. In a sense, the book deconstructs much of what the first book established and reinvents itself. The product is an adventurous romp that’s something like the Goonies meets Zombieland.
At its core, this is a story about the ingenuity and resourcefulness of kids, and I feel like it’s the story the author wanted to tell with the first book but couldn’t quite get there because she had to do all of the world building and rule establishing and conflict setting and yada yada yada that goes with beginning a series. Delusions of the Dead dispenses with the burdens of having to set things up and just dives right in. And rather than falling into the trap so many storytellers do of using a sequel to just continue a story or give us more of the same, I feel like this one immediately glared at me, slapped me across the face, and said, “nah, I don’t wanna do that. I wanna do something else.”
The result is a bit jarring at first, but it’s for the reader’s own good.
Now I get it. If you hear a sequel is different, you get a bit cagey. When you like something, some part of you that likes satisfaction wants the same thing again but this time a little different. But the same. You want it both nostalgic and fresh. You want it both familiar and new. You want the chicken stew your mom used to make in the dead of winter, but also you’re an adult now and it would be nice if she could spice it up a bit, k? Thanks.
This is why writers shy away from sequels.
Yes, things are a bit different now, but much of what I liked about the first book hasn’t changed. There’s still a sense of glee and infatuation with morbidity in the storytelling. There are still hilarious jokes from snarky characters, many of which are returning from the first book. There’s still a sense of disillusionment with the world and wonderful allusions and references to pop culture.
It’s the same storyteller, but the story is refined, and she’s playing with some new ideas, which all means Delusions of the Dead stands on its own but also is a must-read if you enjoyed Notes From a Necrophobe like I did.