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Alive in Necropolis Paperback – 2 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 437 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (2 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594483825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483820
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 20.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,106,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

A dark and funny debut(Seattle-Times) about a young police officer struggling to maintain a sens....

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 42 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Great read, solid writing 22 July 2008
By JC - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Let me just begin with an exceprt of the publisher's description of the book, as I don't think I can describe the premise of "Alive in Necropolis" nearly as well as they do:

"Colma, California, is the only incorporated city in America where the dead outnumber the living. The longtime cemetery for San Francisco, it is the resting place of the likes of joe DiMaggio, Wyatt Earp, and aviation pioneer Lincoln Beachey. It is also the home of Michael Mercer, a rookie cop trying to go by the book as he struggles to navigate a new realm of grown-up relationships..."

But instead of settling comfortably into adult life, Mercer becomes obsessed with the mysterious fate of his predecessor in the police unit, Sergeant featherstone, who seems to have become confused about whether he was policing the living or the dead...

This is not a typical description of the books I read. It sounds like an odd cross of mystery and fantasy. I read almost nothing in the mystery genre and not much in the fantasy genre, and there mainly in young adult fantasy. However, I figured that this was a review copy and I might as well give it a chance, branch out a bit.

I am extremely glad that I decided to be openminded about this book! Surprisingly, the whole `policing the dead' aspect turned out to be less prevalent than expected. "Alive in Necropolis" was more about relationships, about being `alive' in this city most notable for graveyards. I was quite impressed with Dorst's skill, particularly as this is his first novel. I figured that the book would feature some ridiculously inventive plot that would excuse a lack of substantial writing. This wasn't remotely true. Yes, there was a fantastic aspect to the plot, but this book was primarily made by the writing. Dorst gave his main character(s) in particular a good deal of depth and was able to show the reader this depth through the actions and reactions of the characters.

I would recommend this book for those who love good, solid, well-written fiction, fantasy fans or not.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Alive in Necropolis 1 Aug. 2008
By Readingrat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Colma, CA has 1200 living residents and 2 million residents already dead. "No one knows for sure what (the dead) do - if they do anything but lie mute, immobile, decaying - but some of the living have their suspicions."
So starts the story of Officer Michael Mercer, Colma Badge 13. Mercer feels that his life is heading in the right direction - a new job, a new girlfriend, and now hailed a local hero for saving the life of the teenaged son (Jude) of a famous film director. However, Colma's dead have also taken an interest in Mercer because, unlike most of Colma's other residents, he is able to both see and hear them.
After Mercer receives 4 boxes of questionable incident reports from the widow of Officer Featherstone, the man he replaced on the Colma police force, he begins to recognize his unusual link with the dead and realize this "communication" was something he had in common with Featherstone.
Mercer soon finds himself saddled not only with Jude's case to solve, but also the pursuit of "Doc" Barker and his gang of ghostly thugs who are harassing the deceased population of Colma. The real question is, if Mercer will be able to actually defeat "Doc" Barker or if he will suffer the same fate as his predecessor, Featherstone.
On the whole, Alive in Necropolis is a wonderfully entertaining read. The author does a fantastic job of bringing all of his characters fully to life - even when they're dead.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books I've read this year. 9 Aug. 2008
By Kerry Dohm - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book randomly and I'm really glad that I did. While the cover is kind of cheesy, the prose inside is anything but.

Although it does involve ghosts, I've never read something so real before. The relationships between the characters aren't exaggerated like you find in so many books. There are real issues and feelings involved. I think the confusion the main character has over whether he was in love or not is a universal problem and I have never seen it explored in this way.

Beautiful book.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
It's Good, But I Just Can't Figure Out Why 8 July 2009
By D. A. Hermann - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what to say about this book. The writing is solid: subdued and keeps a good pace. You'll never find yourself wishing things were going faster, because you're never really sure where you're headed. To a confrontation with Doc Barker's gang? Reverend Whipple? Fiona? You're never sure.

Mercer is a great character, constantly trying to improve himself and facing serious choices about his development as a man and a police officer. Dorst did an okay job telling me why Mercer liked Fiona, but I never really got the romantic connection. I was really pulling for him to get with Kelly and have a little fun, for the first time in his life.

Encapsulating the action into the police reports is an interesting implementation of fiction. Dorst certainly gets points for trying something new. I can't figure out what I really like about this book, but I can tell you what I don't.

1. The present tense is very distracting at times. I don't understand why authors choose to write in this fashion when so little is gained. I guess it's a good decision when you're writing lyrical narrative, with lots of action and a fast pace. But if you're describing architecture, the present tense is ridiculous: "Is someone creating the corinthian columns right now? I can't tell!"

2. Officer Mercer is rather injury-prone. I could see one incident, specifically the car crash, happening and advancing the plot. But he's in the hospital on three separate occasions, and after the third occurrence you really don't care that he's in pain.

3. So many characters! Most are interesting, with Toronto and Jude probably being the most in-depth, but their roles come in waves, and are never complete. Some characters, particularly Lorna, get off scott-free from their poor choices, while others, particularly Jude, are placed in impossible situations and face huge consequences. Reyna doesn't even make an appearance in the epilogue: what the Hell happened to her?

4. We are never really emotionally invested in the plight of the ghosts. Dorst never connects what Featherstone was doing there in the first place (I assumed he actually was crazy) and, more importantly, never gives us a real reason for Mercer to care what happened to the beleaguered residents of the cemetary.

5. Little Coit learns martial arts from an old guy in the Japanese cemetary? Seriously?

6. Using root on the living in the climax seems curious. Doc Barker already has a great method of killing, see Sergeant Featherstone. Further, we are never told about the method used by the latter to avoid coming to the cemetary at all. It is mentioned in passing in one of the police reports (cremation, I think?) but it would have been interesting to examine how he learned of the circumstances and any other "rules" that apply to the lives of the dead.

Overall, I guess I can't recommend this book, per se, but if you're thinking about reading it, I think you should, simply to see what you'll think.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Two Worlds - Both Fascinating 23 Aug. 2008
By David Donelson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Michael Mercer sees dead people. But that's not why he's a morose, tongue-tied, socially-challenged young man--he's just that way. Now that I think of it, maybe it's the other way around: his undeveloped personal skills are the reason he can converse with ghosts.

Regardless, Mercer is the perfect cop to patrol Colma, California, the only city in America where the dead outnumber the living. As he goes about his rounds of the city's many cemeteries, he sees things other cops don't. Like a long-dead pyromaniac heiress with a heart of gold and a barnstorming aviator who crashes and dies with great regularity, only to crawl from the wreckage and rebuild his plane to fly again, apparently into eternity. As if those encounters aren't weird enough, Mercer also goes to war with the dead, notably a criminal mastermind who awakens (or whatever the dead do) every morning to slice off his fingerprints and loot and pillage both the spirit and the real world.

Alive in Necropolis is a fun book where two worlds exist side by side. Doug Dorst does a wonderful job of making them both come alive.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo
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