Cameron's Reviews > Dead Man's Song

Dead Man's Song by Jonathan Maberry
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Jan 20, 12

Read in January, 2012

Jonathan Mayberry's debut novel Ghost Road Blues is one of the best straight-up horror novels of the 2000's. Mayberry did not pussyfoot around with angsty, vampiric pedophiles, nor did he include one single glittery werewolf (though these novels are markedly vampire and werewolf fare - more on that in a second). Instead, his monstrous antagonists had a raw nakedness to their villainy. It was a grand first novel, full of nods to modern horror classics, while never feeling like a blatant rip-off of any one particular writer.

Dead Man's Song is a continuation of that great start, and for the most part, it really hums along even faster than its predecessor. Mayberry's careful head-hopping switches from various protagonists to his excellent antagonists frequently, but never confusingly so. His particular brand of horror almost reads like a very dark adventure novel, full of exploration of deep dark places and horrific incidents from the past. The action is particularly well written, with frighteningly vivid scenes and descriptions without veering too far off into literary gore porn.

While his villains are top-notch and his sleazier characters written with a deft hand, it's sort of a shame then that his protagonists feel a little black and white. The main character Crow is the stereotypical wisecracking, loving hero, and while he's the worst of the lot, the rest of the protagonists all have their own literary cliches to work past. Mark is the tough geeky kid (who admittedly does show occasional glimpes of being a good character when hints of a possible darker side appear). Val, the rough-and-tumble girlfriend with a heart of gold and deadly aim, feels like a cardboard cutout of the author's dream woman. There's a lengthy lovemaking scene between Val and Crow that feels sickeningly saccharine and caused several eyerolls by this reader at the seemingly infinite tenderness and worship between the two lovers.

Those problems aside, this really is a fantastic read. If you, like me, have had a hard time as of late finding good, sprawling horror tales with plenty of adventurous spirit, give Jonathan Mayberry a whirl. He's got a fantastic thing going here.
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