by Christopher Golden
Review by Drew Bittner
MTV Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1416551352
Date: 21 October 2008 List Price $9.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK /
When a group seance on nationwide TV goes horribly wrong, the dead seize their opportunity to revisit the living en masse. Reanimated bodies rise from cemeteries as the "dead plague" spreads outward swiftly from New York City. Only a handful of individuals--including a pop princess, a professor's daughter, a gangbanger, and two college enemies--might be able to stop the return of the dead...
When a TV morning show holds a séance, things go very wrong very quickly… and soon, the East Coast is under attack from the reanimated dead. Unless a handful of young folks can figure out what to do, and quickly, the United States and then the world will be overrun.
This is the premise of Soulless by Christopher Golden. Not content to pen just another zombie apocalypse story, Golden goes for the throat by offering something completely new and singularly horrific. However, the surprise is so good, it won't be spoiled here. Suffice it to say that it's a take on zombies that I've only seen once or twice before -— which makes it rare in my book and a secret worth preserving.
Phoenix Cormier thought she'd spend the summer with her absentee dad, a professor whose theories on the supernatural are about to get tested. She watches him as he takes part in a publicity stunt: a séance on morning TV in New York City with two hosts and two very powerful mediums. Once the event is underway, it's clear immediately that something has happened. The five involved go catatonic, their grip on each other unbreakable. And then the horror begins…
Not far away, Matt Gaines attends his mentor's funeral, only to see the body leave the coffin and attack its grieving wife and children. With his enemy Noah Eisen, Matt escapes the church with a young professor, seeking answers even as they try to survive the mad event.
Jack, a Korean juvenile delinquent and gang member, leaves his neighborhood one step ahead of a deadly threat, but after stopping at a diner, finds that his journey won't be as easy as he'd hoped. More of the dead are rising, farther and farther from New York City, outracing Jack's hope of staying ahead of the effect. In company with a waitress, he leads a desperate defense of the diner as more undead swarm the eatery.
Lastly, pop princess Tania realizes that there are more important things in the world than her next album -— and her secrets -— as the dead rise and attack the living. As the route of escape slowly strangles when thousands try to flee, Tania finds herself amid strangers… who may or may not be able to save the world, if they can reach the heart of the crisis in time.
Golden has written a knockout with Soulless. His teenage heroes are conflicted, anxious, angry and scared by turns, as they cope with problems straight from a George Romero flick. Each of them make moral choices and learn to live with them, as the fight to survive narrows their options. Phoenix has to come to grips with her flawed father; Matt and Noah have to decide how important their differences really are; Tania has to chance trusting others, when that kind of vulnerability is lethal to careers like hers. In short, they all have to grow up under the worst conditions imaginable.
At 300+ pages, you might think the story would be protracted but not so; in fact, it clicks along at racehorse speed, culminating in a surprising climax with some shattering repercussions.
Christopher Golden's many readers and fans of zombie apocalypse survival horror will enjoy this novel without a doubt, but fans of character-driven adventure (with some horrific imagery) may want to give this a try as well.