on 8 July 2011
Robert Callahan interrupts a burglary at his house, kills the burglars and saves his stuff, but in the process breaks the seal on Amara's sarcophagus letting her loose, to murder and destroy, but only at night (?). Callahan dies, badly, and his stuff, including Amara's sarcophagus gets donated to the Charles Ward Museum (!) where the killing continues.
The killings are "investigated" by assistant curator Susan Connors, who is carrying on with fellow staffer Taggart Parker, who is himself being stalked by the grotty, fat, stupid Mabel, who, more pathetic than menacing, is dumber than your pet rock.
All of this could have been a fairly entertaining mummy-on-a-rampage story that could have been a good pulp page-turner if Laymon hadn't left it, and his characters, so underdeveloped. The story also suffers from the fact that Laymon just didn't seem to have any idea as where to go with this idea, as Amara wakes, kills, falls asleep, wash, rinse, repeat. And that's it, with the story crawling on for fifty pages too long, and ending with a clichéd direct-to-DVD explosion.
Unfortunately this novella didn't come to the party alone. "To Wake The Dead" is also printed with a concurrent novella that is braided into the mummy-on-a-rampage storyline. This is essentially a poor, pointless, plotless, pornographic grindhouse bit of torture porn roughie involving two people that have been kidnapped and are relentlessly raped and mutilated. This storyline goes nowhere, slowly, as more captives come and go, while the tedium never ends. This tenaciously mediocre story meanders endlessly, with our captives finally cooking up an escape plot, which never happens. If over a hundred pages of pointless, tone-deaf, and conversely, banal, sexual terrorism is your thing, then prepare to be thrilled into a state resembling an orgasmic induced coma. The denouement, if you can call it that, is a true HUH?!? moment.
The problem is that either of these novellas could have been developed into something with a little effort. Well, okay, not the second one, but at least the mummy-on-a-rampage storyline coulda been. As is, the Amara story works best, but that's like saying that stepping into a pile of cow turds is better than stepping into a pile of dog turds because the cow turds smell better.
Richard Laymon is, along with V. C. Andrews and Robert E. Howard, one of the most prolific dead writers around, and it shows. These two novellas are clearly either rough drafts, the outlines for two separate novellas that couldn't find a market while Laymon was alive, or, they were ghost written by somebody so utterly incompetent that they couldn't be counted on to write bad graffiti on a bathroom wall. While this is marketed as a novel, except for a brief few pages, neither novellas ever intersect.
Another problem is that the book is bloated with too many extraneous characters that go nowhere, and exist for no reason except to pump up the word count. These would include a fearful and oversexed Egyptian, a sad blind girl, a trio of runaways, and a midget transvestite (!). These plotlines are never wrapped up, as too many really important questions are left unanswered, and with most of the cardboard characters literally just driving off novel's pages into nowhere.
This overlong "novel" remained unpublished at Laymon passing, and for good reason. However, it certainly couldn't have hurt to have had SOMEBODY either re-write or edit these novellas into some semblance of coherency, or quality. Dean Koontz gives a decent anecdote about Laymon that was vaguely interesting, but pretty was pretty much non-essential. I remember liking Laymon's early stories, but this is the first thing, that is also known as "Amara", that I read after fifteen years, and what a sad misogynistic visitation this was. I guess I've grown up some since then. Only for the very, very easily amused. One generous star.