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The Living and the Dead Paperback – December 30, 2017
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With "The Living And The Dead" Greg gives us a truly frightening, pulse pounding, leave your lights on story that will leave you breathless in its wake.
As with all of Greg's stories, his characters and the humanity, (for all its frailties), that he infuses into them is what makes the story work so well.
In this instance, a group of people from different backgrounds, all haunted in one way or another are thrust together and forced to face the darkness that resides in us all.
The interactions between the characters is what really drew me into this tale. It didn't feel contrived or unnatural, especially with the aberrant things that are going on around them. I really got to know the characters, sharing in their pain and suffering, and it is not a pleasant experience.
This my friends is what makes a book great in my opinion and why reading surpasses any other form of entertainment there is. When I finish a book and I have to sit there, gather my thoughts and reconnect with the world around me I know that I have just experienced something special. With "The Living and the Dead, this is exactly how I felt when I finished it and this is something I only experience from reading.
If you have read any of Greg's work before you know he does not sugarcoat anything. This story is as visceral and emotionally draining as it gets. Greg's writing is dark, desolate and haunting. His atmospheric prose will leave you shaken, your heart racing, while you tell yourself, it is only a book, it is only a book.
If you are looking for something to get you out of the summer doldrums and want to experience a master storyteller at work you simply must read "The Living And The Dead" and I give it my highest recommendation.
A storm is coming and bringing with it an ancient creature that feeds off of fear. A group of strangers are forced together by circumstance and must find a way to fight for their sanity and their lives against enemies that may already be dead. Here come the night stories...
Gifune is truly a master of dark fiction. His characterizations and atmosphere are incredible, as usual, and the story moves along at a perfect pace. Solid 4.5 stars.
I was disappointed with this book. I'm a huge fan of Greg Gifune, so I expected more. That said, it wasn't a terrible book--just below what I've come to expect from this author.
The plot was a bit of a mess, and pacing was all over the place. One of the things I appreciate about Gifune's work is that his cryptic moments work in the context of the book and never leave you hanging without at least some subtle confirmation, even if it's not explicit. Even if he keeps it cryptic, usually it's a plot device specifically engineered for a purpose. This read sloppily, like he was trying to write it quickly and hadn't thought the plot all the way through. There are a few plot holes, some story points are abandoned never to be seen again, and the cryptic stuff stays cryptic, but is presented in such a way that it merely annoys the reader instead of piquing their interest. Gifune's subtlety and usage of psychological horror elements are among his best qualities as a writer, but they are not on great display in this narrative.
My biggest complaint is that the plot is in many places irrational. Big scary bird man comes to town with dead people. That's fine. Except that neither the bird man nor the dead people attack or try to hurt anyone at any point. Why is everyone so afraid of them?? They're just kind of hanging out all over the place. Sure, they don't look too pretty, but after the initial shock I'd think most people would catch on that they aren't being attacked (not in a way where they're getting hurt, anyway) or eaten. In fact, the only killings are from people killing themselves or each other. Even at the end where it's revealed this is a worldwide apocalypse, the "evil" things aren't harming people. So I guess it must be an apocalypse of people killing each other because they are scared of the bird man and the wandering dead people. I honestly have no idea. Nor do we ever learn the bird man's purpose, and its backstory changes frequently (at least the supposition of it), so there are lots of little holes there.
The characters were a real disappointment. Every female character (with the exception of Rae) was flat, catty, shallow, whiny, and completely insufferable. The characters were virtually interchangeable and extremely annoying. All they did was get in cat fights with each other. The men weren't much better. Perry was cliched, and we never do get insight into exactly why what happened to him happened. It's kind of forgotten. Duck often makes irrational statements and decisions, and everyone else just accepts it with little to no explanation. ("You want to leave town? Nope. I've been in the military, and somehow that translates into a reason for us all to stay here and run around the town for no reason!" "Okay!") If we had more of a foundation for Duck (his Vietnam experiences on a cerebral level, his isolation, etc.) then he could have been a very interesting character (though I do love the cat house). But half of his decisions don't make sense (making everyone leave their safe house and drive around town, but refusing to allow anyone to drive outside of town). Chris's character is mediocre (for Gifune, whose characters are often developed expertly and with lots of forethought). Also, after he reveals he murdered his sister, everyone is totally cool with it and acting normal. What happened there?? Rae could have been expanded significantly. Tons of potential there. I feel like there's a huge amount of the story that we don't even see. Unfortunately Rae's forgotten in the end, as well. The deaths are kind of glossed over, and we suddenly abandon all but two characters near the end, and it's extremely abrupt. The one excellent character is Dempsey. Great depth, great variation, great voice.
Gifune is a cerebral horror writer, but this is a bit of a mess. I think it must have been written in a hurry, because transitions are abrupt, pacing changes randomly, and the tone of the story changes constantly. The narrative goes from "scary Mothman tale in small town due to family's/town's sins" to "worldwide apocalypse of people randomly killing each other because non-lethal dead people/figments of our imaginations are walking around" randomly at the end. Very inconsistent narrative.
The writing itself is solid, as always. There are more errors than usual, though. This seems to be a pretty popular book of his, and I suppose when comparing with similar fiction from other authors this is above average. However, when comparing this with the author's other works, this is fairly mediocre and flat. That said, I still think Gifune is an underrated writer and pretty much all of his stuff is worth reading. If you're looking for a fun read that's well written and aren't too concerned with plot and character development, this book is a perfectly fine choice.