Dead Set by Richard Kadrey is a new YA story in which a girl goes to the land of the dead to get her father back.
WHY I PICKED IT UP
I like the premise and I’ve been a fan of Kadrey ever since I read his Sandman Slim series, so I was interested right away. I heard about this book from an interview with Kadrey on John Scalzi’s blog.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT
I like that Kadrey’s characters are flawed. He’s great at giving characters the right flaws they need to spur them toward the plot’s action. His main in this one, Zoe, has a dead father, money troubles, a history of mental health problems likely caused by these things, and social isolation. It’s not an original problem, but it is relatable.
I also like how Kadre shows us Zoe’s level of despair. It does make her feel real to me.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
First and foremost, I felt this book was a bit too TELLing and could have used some more SHOWing in the opening. For that reason I kind of felt I was being talked down to—and anybody who knows YA or children’s writing knows you DON’T talk down to your audience; kids can handle a lot more than we give them credit for.
Then again, it could just be an issue on my (reading) end. This is Kadrey’s first attempt at YA and it’s written in omniscient third person as opposed to Kadrey’s usual first person, so there may be some hiccups there in adjusting to his new style—for both the author and the reader.
Once the dialogue begins Kadrey finds his stride. There’s a hook in the main character’s lucid dreams and being followed by eyeless black dogs. Sounds cool. At the same time, I think I’ve been conditioned to hate anything which occurs in a dream sequence in fiction.
RESULT: I DIDN’T READ IT
Kadrey’s still a great writer and I still love his voice and this premise—there just wasn’t a whole lot going on that hooked me.
I may return to this novel when time and interest permit, but I don’t feel a NEED to go read it now–which is what all writers should shoot for.
Still, check it out for yourself! Tell me what you think of Dead Set in a comment!