Monday, 7 February 2011

Candles & Caterpillars for the Dead

David Peace has fast become one of my favourite authors, the Red Riding quartet was a difficult, harrowing tale of murder & corruption in 70's Yorkshire that was beautifully complex and written with an intense, burrowing subjectivity, anyways I've seen reviews comparing his prose to James Ellroy's frenetic, declarative style but his latest series of books, set in post war Japan, show he's a far greater talent than the self styled Demon Dog. The first of this new series, Tokyo Year Zero, was based on the real case of serial killer Yoshio Kodaira and it painted a horrifying picture of the chaos and tragedy of life in the devastated country. The second called Occupied City is even more disturbing, again based on a true crime, the Sadamachi Bank poisoning, and uses a vast cast of characters to further probe the terrible realities in Japan at that time including the hypocrisy of the Allied victors, the horrifying Japanese biological experiments in mainland China and the everyday anger & despair of the ordinary citizens as the country struggles to rise from the ashes of defeat. While TYZ was feverish & frantic Occupied City stretches well beyond - a full tilt descent into a dizzying array of Rashamon narratives with disparate styles for each voice, ranging from police notes to poesis via hopelessness & madness. Be warned reveals Peace's roots as a poet so some of the sections are (quite successfully imo) experimental oh and it's definitely not going to cheer you up but don't let me put you off - it blew me away and I wish everything I read was as well written.

Handling the Undead is written by John Ajvide Lindqvist the author of Let The Right One In. No vamps this time instead we've got a strange re-imagining of a Zombie outbreak, not Romero flesh eaters however, instead these undead clods are a bit more placid neither chomping flesh nor craving brains. The story follows three families as they try to deal with return of the recently deceased who still seem to have consciousness within their decomposed bodies and the strange telepathic effect they seem to engender. Lindqvist isn't the greatest writer, don't get me wrong he's no Dan Brown but the prose style is functional and the characters flat. Twin that with a muddled mythos and a dribbling, pseudo religious grub-based finale and you've got a disappointing read that will still no doubt get optioned for the big screen.

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