Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Alive in Necropolis” as Want to Read:
Alive in Necropolis
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Alive in Necropolis

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  934 ratings  ·  232 reviews
A fresh, imaginative debut novel about a young police officer in northern California struggling to keep the peace—and maintain a grip on reality—in a town where the dead outnumber the living.

Colma, California, is the only incorporated city in America where the dead outnumber the living. The longtime cemetery for San Francisco, it is the resting place of the likes of Joe Di
Hardcover, 437 pages
Published July 17th 2008 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Alive in Necropolis, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Alive in Necropolis

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  934 ratings  ·  232 reviews

More filters
Sort order
It's not a horrible book, but it lacks focus.

The ghosts issue that is the hook for the story feels weak in my opinion. Better is the telling of the stories of the three main male characters as they try and find love/happiness within their lives. The intertwining of the narratives is enjoyable and interesting, the differences between the different characters makes the reading very enjoyable.

The ghosts seems like it was the hook to get an editor to read the book, but it feels more like an aftertho
Jul 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Meave by: SFPL: OneCity OneBook 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Best book I've read all summer. In a glut of first-person logorrhea that seems to be outright choking the fiction shelves these days it’s pleasurably bracing to read a new book written completely in the third-person. Written well, mind you. And aside from the author’s talent, there’s plenty else in this one to savor: a town of cemeteries (Colma), the ramshackle pack of cops that patrol said town, an old-timey gang of murderous ghosts, a nurse with a drinking problem, the rich son of a pretentiou ...more
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it

Firstly, I love the title of this book. Isn't it wonderful? Sonorous, contradictory, engaging, mystifying; it has an excellent mouthfeel. I think the title alone was enough to convince my mother to buy this book in hardcover (admittedly, after a bout of serious cajoling on my part), and my nefarious plan unfolded precisely: she bought the book, and finished it just in time for my arrival in California (yes, I am sitting here tapping my steepled fingers together and cackling).

Even one hundred pag
Krok Zero
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spring-2010
Ugh. Two stars is generous.

Look, if you want to write a boring book about the social/romantic life of a nondescript policeman and a few of the equally uninteresting people in his orbit, go right ahead. That is your right as an American and as a mediocre novelist. But why disguise it as a supernatural mystery about a city full of ghosts, especially if you're going to avoid the subject of ghosts for pretty much hundreds of pages at a time? That's both annoying and dishonest, and it just doesn't ma
Aug 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
This book was billed as part police procedural, part ghost story. Michael Mercer is a rookie cop in Colma, California, a city that has so many cemeteries that the dead outnumber the living by thousands to one. I want to say that I think the author shows definite potential with this book. Unfortunately it fails on a few levels. Too much time was spent overdeveloping minor characters at the expense of plot and pacing. Although the ghost characters appeared throughout, Michael’s interaction with th ...more
Jun 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this book. Overall, it was pretty good - it's been a while since I read a work of fiction that I was this wrapped up in - but there were several things I just didn't really like about it.

The ending. Meh.

The police reports. Ugh! Tedious to read. And the climactic moment of the story is only described in police report. Totally not satisfying.

Generally, too many bad things happened to too many good people. Very annoying.

However, very creative concept and LOTS of literary love for the
Colin McKay Miller
Jun 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels, abandoned
There might be a good story in Doug Dorst’s Alive in Necropolis, but I don’t have any more patience to get to it.

The novel starts out with a suspenseful first chapter, as police officer Mike Mercer investigates a suspicious scene at a local cemetery. Unfortunately, the story crawls from there, as the next 200-something pages deal with Mercer’s relationships with an older lover, Fiona, his cop cliché partner, Nick Toronto, and the elderly woman who moved into his apartment complex, Lorna Feathers
Oct 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: to-be-sold
By page 248, I gave up. I had been told that this was a ghost story for people who don't like ghost stories. I like ghost stories. Dorst had created wonderful characters in the ghosts. Unfortunately, they were a fraction of the story, which centered on a young cop. If he'd been policing the living and the dead, like I'd hoped, he would have been much more interesting to me. Instead, I couldn't figure out the appeal he had for all the boring living people buzzing around him. If I'd met this guy a ...more
I'm not exactly sure what Necropolis was trying to say. On another day, I would have forgiven its rambling plot, but not right now when I'm already struggling to finish perfectly readable books. And this wasn't one of those. It had way too many subplots and asides to form a coherent whole. More unfortunately, the subplots and asides were just not interesting. The characters were not people I wanted to spend time with, and while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, in this particular book it was y ...more
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
I am an idiot...what was the point?
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at the end of April, having seen it on an end-of-the-semester book buying trip near campus. I wanted to stock up on summer reading material; Dorst’s book wanted to be bought. I could tell by the blue and yellow cover, the graphic-novel style cover art, and the fact that the word “Necropolis” was in the title, that this book wanted to be taken home and devoured. The back cover whispered something about ghosts and the Bay area, two of my favorite things, and I knew the deal was ...more
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I went to see Doug Dorst read when this book came out, got my copy in hardcover, had him autograph it, and reminded him of who I was—a former student from his days at Stanford. “Bruce,” he wrote, “Keep it up – Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!”

But then it took me a long time—could it be 3 years??—to finally crack this thing and read it. I had tried once, as I recall, but the hook didn’t get set. This time, however, no such problem. I was drawn in from the first scene.

I guess the short versi
Aug 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: urban-fantasy
I was curious about this book when I read its dust jacket, wondering why it was classified in my store's Fiction/Lit section as opposed to Sci-Fi/Fantasy where the bulk of Urban Fantasy resides. I had my answer after completing my ride-along with Officer Michael Mercer, Dorst's focal character, and it had to do with the pacing and stylistic nature of the book. Ravenous urban fantasy readers seeking that next thrilling storyline might find this novel harder to speed through (we are riding shotgun ...more
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit, fiction
There are more people dead than living in the Northern California city of Colma, a community centered almost entirely around cemeteries. (Where else are the people of nearby San Francisco going to bury their dead?) Rookie cop Mike Mercer has recently taken over a graveyard beat after his predecessor died, and just like the man he replaced, he soon starts hearing and seeing things he shouldn’t be. And by ‘things’ I naturally mean ‘dead people.’ Paging Haley Joel Osment!

The somewhat rambling narra
Oct 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone in the market for a very enjoyable diversion
Perhaps it was the cartoonish cover art, but I went into this book expecting a combination of "Six Feet Under" and SHAUN OF THE DEAD. What I got was much closer to "Six Feet Under", minus most of the queasy biological details. This is a very enjoyable, well paced read, with some irksome flaws: the chronology between events of the various plotlines is excedingly vague, and the physics of the ghostworld seems not to have been worked out, and seems to have been put in as a way of introducing famous ...more
Sep 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This is a terrible book. It is rife with trite interactions between poorly drawn characters. The women are about as unrealistic as you can get, conforming mostly to teenage cartoon fantasies then anything approximating anyone you've ever met. There are random samplings of nicely phrased sentences that serve little purpose in the book. The ghost-world is ineffectively drawn and boring.
Larry-bob Roberts
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
It was the selection of San Francisco's One City One Book, so when my brother gave me a copy I thought I'd give it a shot. Very disappointed. Character development that crawled along about characters it was hard to care about. I was expecting something a little more in the genre fiction department, but this had the weakness of a writer who mistakenly thinks they're above genre fiction.
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
I think the author was wise not to let the ghost parts take over the book, but that only raises the question of their role in the book altogether. Take them out and you still have a fine novel about the main characters. They did have a kind of charm to them, but....
Dec 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Definitely liked the book, but not as much as I feel like I should have liked it. Can't put my finger on it, but something didn't really click with me. May just be that I read this right after Garp and there's really no comparing the two.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
I don't read many novels these days, and I'm not a fan of the supernatural, but this one was worth the time. Excellent bus/train reading. Recommendation: read "Alive in Necropolis" and then rent the DVD "Colma: The Musical". Colma's made it, big time! Now it can go back to sleep...
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2008
Everybody knows I love reading novels set in San Francisco. And this is a good one. Actually, it's mostly about Colma (thus the title), but a lot of the action takes place in The City. Like the Cookie Monster says, "That's good enough for me!"
Cynthia Varady
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dueling Librarians April 2013 review!
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
A Colma police rookie sees ghosts and suffers from lovesickness amongst other ills in this slightly overlong but entertaining first novel
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ghosts, mystery, humor, gritty
The Dueling Librarians review for April 2013!
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was absolutely terrible. It took all I had to finish it, only out of my personal compulsion to have an "ending". The lead character is a good guy (mostly) surrounded by jerks...flat characters who repeatedly do stupid actions with no clear reason, other than to advance the plot, and this causes us to lose empathy for them quickly. But the "hero" doesn't make great decisions either, so it's difficult to root for him.

The main story (a gang of ghosts is terrorizing other ghosts, and forci
Douglas Gorney
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
First, don't let the comic-book cover put you off. This is a worthwhile, real-world novel with complex characterizations, multi-layered plotting and, yes, a bit of supernatural presence thrown in.

Doug Dorst is one to watch. The persona and world of his protagonist, Michael Mercer, feel fully fleshed out. Same with the other key characters. We get all the quirks and tics with which dysfunctional childhoods reverberate into adulthood. People take wrong turns, do good and selfless things sloppily,
Thomas Brailey
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Super fun and different. I'm surprised I liked it as much as I did, to be honest.

The way the ghosts are written about in the book was different and interesting.

I personally with the author would write more, because after this and S, I'm officially a fan.
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sara by: Newspaper
4.5 stars. A very interesting, very different book that I'm glad I read. The closest book I could compare this to is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book; obviously the target audiences are vastly different, but both deal with ghosts in a graveyard and the people who can see them.

There are a number of levels to the story in Alive in Necropolis, which is definitely more character-driven than plot-driven. Mike Mercer is a rookie cop in the small California city of Colma, which has more dead residents
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
After drifting for a few years, the accident-prone former Hard Ten bartender Mike Mercer is inspired to become a cop when he reads a newspaper article about a San Francisco goodwill police officer who practices his mime routine while walking his beat.

Mercer — nicknamed “Boy Thirteen” by his colleagues and the hero of Doug Dorst’s debut novel Alive in Necropolis — is set up in Colma, Calif., with a stunning ratio of living residents versus cemeteries [Olivet Memorial Park, the Serbian Cemetery, P
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The More I Owe You
  • The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown
  • We Agreed to Meet Just Here (AWP Award Series in the Novel)
  • Cities on a Hill
  • Egg Dancing
  • Halfway House
  • The Dead Janitors Club: Pathetically True Tales of a Crime Scene Cleanup King
  • The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula
  • Everyman
  • Three Fingers
  • Last Last Chance
  • Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus
  • The Two Sams
  • The Domino Men (Domino Men, #2)
  • Two Crowns for America
  • Green Wake Volume 1 TP
  • Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, With a New Preface
  • Pilates' Return to Life Through Contrology
See similar books…
“I like to think he's in a better place. And besides, when you get older, you want to have something to believe in.” 5 likes
“Everything you do means something about you.” 4 likes
More quotes…