Peer Review: Double Dead, by Chuck Wendig

One of the disadvantages of having lots of talented writers and designers as friends is that I end up with more books to read or games to play than I have time to read or play them. I know that one of the best ways to help a fellow writer out is to write a review, and I sometimes regret that I don’t always have the time to do that.

When I saw that I had a couple of dozen ebooks in my Kindle app on my iPad that I hadn’t read yet, I decided to try and do something about it. So I’m starting a new feature on my blog called “Peer Review.” These are highly biased reviews, because they’ll be of the work of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, but it’s a chance to help some friends out, and a chance to expose some great work to people who might not otherwise have heard of them.

Let me start off with a quick story. When I was visiting my mom a couple of weeks ago, I met my stepsister’s boyfriend for the first time for dinner, and we fell into talking about vampire and zombie movies. He pointed out that he didn’t know of any movie or book which featured both zombies and vampires. I pointed out that there is one book where this is true.

Thus: Double Dead.

Double Dead is Chuck Wendig‘s first published novel. That seems weird to me, since I’ve been working with Chuck for years, and I feel like he’s always been more prolific than the rest of reality considers him to be — something, I will note, that he’s been rapidly working to correct the past year or so. And this book showcases some of the best of Chuck’s technique and narrative voice. A number of people know Chuck for his intensely surreal and foul-mouthed patter, but I’ve always known Chuck as a very subtle storyteller. The profanity and scatological humor are like a magician’s flourish: a distraction to draw your attention away from the real magic, the engaging story that’s dragging you along and making you care about the characters and the world he’s creating.

A perfect example of this is the protagonist: Coburn the vampire. He wakes up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and is pissed off that blood has basically stopped falling into his mouth. He is, to put it mildly, the worst kind of self-entitled asshole. And yet, by the end, I was rooting for Coburn (and his dog), even during the worst parts of the zombie apocalypse. Sure, there’s a lot of pure fun in the story, the kind of enjoyable ass-kicking and crass humor that makes for a good action film. For 80% of the book I felt I knew exactly where the plot was going, and I was enjoying it like a good road trip — the journey meant more to me then the destination. And then, a number of twists hit me like rabbit punches to the gut, and it was all over. I was down for the count, staring at the words THE END and wondering how in the hell I ended up on the floor.

… I lost the metaphor a bit there. I’m still recovering from the end of the book.

Go get Double Dead.

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