Crystal Lake Publishings latest release is a book co-written by Aaron Dires and Mark Allan Gunnells. To label this book as standard Z-fiction really isn’t doing it any justice because ‘Where the Dead go to Die’ is one of 2016s very best books.
I hate to label it as a Zombie book because it is so much more. The word Zombie is mentioned infrequently during the book and with good reason but this book is more of a look at what it is to be human. It is a close look at how we treat each other and also a look at the fear of disease. The story takes place in and around a care home, not your typical care home, for this care home houses those that have contracted a terrible disease. The people living (a word I’d use loosely here) inside the home are slowly transforming into something else. There are a few names for what these people will become: Bone-eaters and smilers are just two of them. As the body slowly shuts down a rictus grin is permanently etched on their faces, their bodies reduced to skin and bone and they develop an unusual thirst for bones, hence the name. The books main character, Emily is a care worker struggling to let go of the past. A past that saw her loved one executed by a mob after he contracted the virus. Emily and her daughter do all that they can to ensure the journey for those inside the home is as comfortable as possible. Not everyone agrees with these homes and there is a great deal of social unrest and confusion as to why these infected persons aren’t dealt with straight away. A young boy is administered into the home and a bond is formed between Emily’s daughter and the child. Robby is infected and the relationship that blossoms between the two is heartfelt and sincere. The books characters are wonderfully drawn, each one is instantly identifiable and realistic making what happens to them even more difficult to stomach. There are a number of uneasy scenes inside WTDGTD and I found myself with something in my eye on more than one occasion. In typical Dries style, the book broods at a steady pace until all Hell is unleashed, catching you off guard with its sudden eruptions of brutality and gore. Just when you think you have it all figured out you reach the end of the book and get suckerpunched yet again.
Throughout the book there are a few paintings included. These black and white images work brilliantly along with the narrative, pulling you even deeper inside, putting faces to the names. The book is incredibly cohesive, considering it is written by two authors with quite contrasting styles. You often wonder when a project such as this is conceived whether or not there will be stylistic oddities but with this there are no such thing so hats tipped to Gunnells and Dries. I am not a big fan of Zombie fiction, but this books goes above and beyond any I have read previously (and I have read and awful lot over the years). Just when you think that a horror genre trope might be stagnating a book like this comes along and makes you excited to start reading it again. ‘Where the Dead go to Die’ is a triumph for dark fiction. A book will leave a brand on your soul and a stain in your mind. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet then you are doing yourself a massive disservice. Fix that right now. Crystal Lake Publishing have truly saved their very best release for last in 2016. Superb.
Pick up a copy from here.