Tuesday, 18 April 2017
The Book of the Not Dead Enough: Admin Errors from the Other Side (2015) by Richard T. Watson - Zombie eBook Review
I had gotten into the habit of point blank turning down any requests I got sent to review eBooks, this was due to having a backlog five years long. However I received such a polite email from Richard T. Watson about his collection of short stories; The Book of the Not Dead Enough: Admin Errors from the Other Side that I decided I would buy a new eBook reader in order to finally make an effort to get on top of things. I am very rusty when it comes to book reviews, but it is all practice!
So contained within this there are twenty one short stories spread over 171 pages all dealing with a different version of the traditional zombie tale. The stories all take place in a world where due to an administration error in the afterlife a percentage of the world's population upon dying stay in their bodies rather than move on. These N.D.E's (Not Dead Enough's) aside from being dead are no different than when they were alive, they don't hunger for brains or any of the traditional wants the undead have. Most of the stories here explore different issues the dead face, usually to do with bureaucracy such as the issues of life insurance, marriage rights, and job security.
This is a funny book with plenty of humour thrown into the different stories, yet the comedy isn't really the point of this. All the different tales come across as accounts rather than having a traditional structure, some are even written as if they were magazine articles (Till Death Do You Part), or as a series of letters (Murphy's Insurance Law). Most if not all the stories are analogies for the different issues that are in the public conscience; homelessness, immigrants, Brexit, the elderly, homosexuality all are discussed here but dressed up with zombies replacing the usual people. You get an undead couple trying to adopt a child but facing persecution by anti-dead protesters, an undead woman facing discrimination at work, dead-pride marches and the governments attempts at dealing with the new dead issue. Much of what is here has a vein of bitterness running through it, there may be humour but you can see the frustration of Watson, as well as his particular view points on these social issues. Most stories end with no real conclusion to the characters plights, more it is a highlighting of how silly peoples prejudices are, especially when the thing they are against is transferred to be undead instead. At times it is a bit heavy handed in the portrayal, yet it is also clever how all these many different topics all get neatly transformed. There is a clear message here and you share the characters frustrations at the many bigots and all the red tape included within, that stretches to the afterlife itself (A Good Way To Die and final one The Bureaucrats of the Hereafter: The Cogs of Destiny are both about the just as flawed systems in the afterlife.
With a fantastical reason for the events in The Book of the Not Dead Enough there is good slice of silliness that compliments what is being said perfectly, This is all rooted in reality (save for the dead themselves) with the jokes resting alongside the essays. At times it can be laugh out loud, I particularly enjoyed Death Warmed Up about a still alive man attempting to learn ballroom dancing lessons but facing prejudice by the rest of the group who assume from his appearance he is deceased. There was also a great joke in The Pensioner's Crusade (about the elderly dead and not dead going on a march to Downing Street to petition about high energy bills) about the march taking so long because still alive elderly marchers kept dying en route and roadside funerals needing to be conducted for them. Aside from a couple of two parters these stories are all separate from each, but they all take place in England. There is some cross over with characters from other stories being mentioned in passing in others that was a cool addition.
Throughout this is well written in a way that is simple, and yet involved enough to seem detailed, character descriptions are visually appealing such as the hook nosed accountant in Commercial Strategy and the Profit-Loss Death Formula. The variety of topics here is pretty cool, alongside social issues there are stories that are more fun such as Almost Haunted (A group of ghost hunters encountering some the not quite dead), and A Charitable Death (about a man whose acts of charity loose their pull power after he accidentally dies trying to one up people in his bigger version of the ice box challenge). I found reading this to be quite addictive, and a nice alternate version of what zombies can be.