I just finished reading the PDF galley* of Tim Waggoner’s Nekropolis, from Angry Robot Books. I was hooked from the very first sentence: "I was sitting in Skully’s, nursing a beer that I couldn’t taste, and which I’d have to throw up later, and trying real hard to look like I was minding my own business, when the lyke walked in." I don’t know who this character is, but I already like him.
Matthew Richter isn’t your average character. He’s a completely reliable narrator, but he’s dead. He’s a zombie, to be exact, although he’s not your average zombie. No, Matt can not only move and think at the same time, but he’s also got a will of his own, making him appealing and unusual. And, he’s in an unusual setting: Nekropolis. Actually, Nekropolis is a character all by itself, a funhouse gone mad, complete with all sort of scarily-funny (and just plain scary) inhabitants.
The backbone of the story is a mystery that Matt is hired to solve by Devona, a half-vampire whose father happens to be Lord Galm, a Darklord of Nekropolis. She’s the caretaker of her father’s vast stores of magical things, and a most powerful magical item, the Dawnstone, has gone missing. Although Matt is reluctant to take on the job at first, he could do with the payment she’s offering, considering he needs more preservative spells to keep himself together (literally – to keep his body from falling apart). Working together, they not only encounter dangerous people, but dangerous places along the way. And no, I’m not telling how it ends. Read the book.
This quest/mystery is well done throughout the book and I wasn’t sure who had stolen the Dawnstone until the end of the story, which is a good thing (don’t you hate predictable endings?). But what I really enjoyed was the pure creativity and fun here. Nekropolis at times reminded me of places created by other authors (like China Mieville’s New Crobuzon), but the things it contains are in a league all their own. Right on page 8, Matt’s in a bar with a jukebox – which has three heads bolted to the top of the machine, who all sing. Then, there’s the Mind’s Eye Theatre. And the organic computers (kinda yucky, but also kinda cool). Even the cars are beautifully crafted by the author into beings unto themselves. I kept coming across things in this story that I felt were funny, and intensely creative, and incredibly enjoyable – and it seemed to me that Waggoner must have had a lot of fun writing this.
Something else I really enjoyed in this book was the character development of Matt Richter. I liked this guy right away, but as the story went on, I really felt like I got to know him. And, he would say things every so often that I felt revealed not only something about him, but also were things that I think would resonate with a lot of readers. He’s in a place where there are a lot of un-human things, but he’s the only one of his kind. He understands that other people recoil from him, especially when he’s not looking (or smelling) his best. On page 58, he even says “I knew what it was like to feel less than everyone around you.” Anyone can feel this way, no matter where they are. Matt’s a great character, and someone I think many readers can relate to.
This book was a hell of a lot of fun to read – I can’t wait to order a copy for the library so I can start pushing it to other people. And I’m treating myself to a copy, too. Extra props to the author for adding in not only a kick-ass library, but a cool librarian, as well.
*this was a galley, so any page numbers cited might be different once the final copy is published.