Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Demons, death, and a woodcutter's axe, 1 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Dead Man Vol 5: The Death Match, The Black Death, and The Killing Floor (Paperback)
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This is the fifth volume of a series kicked off by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin, in their 'pilot,' in which blue collar everyday Joe Matt Cahill dies in a skiing accident, and is resurrected to a life beyond death. This gives him enhanced strength and super healing abilities, but the downside is that he can see the spiritual corruption spread by a demon called 'Mr Dark.' Said spiritual corruption takes the form of rotting and diseased flesh. Matt is compelled to plough a lonely furrow chasing Dark across America with his woodcutter's axe, after Dark slaughters his best friend and a number of bystanders in volume one.

So the pilot gives way to a series of novellas, each told by a different writer, and each chronicling Matt's encounters with Mr Dark across the States, and his attempts to bring good out of evil, and drive his axe into demonic visages along the way.

It's a grand pulpy read, fast story telling with intense action and with everything else, characterisation, motivation, philosophy, pared down to the bone. That's not to say it's bad. This bone forms a sound enough skeleton for the flesh and muscle of the kinetic storytelling to rest on.

Different writers bring their own colourings to Matt's world. It's illuminating to read the brief writer biographies supplied in each volume. So we should not be surprised that Christa's Faust, a diva of 'racy fetish oriented videos,' has written a story about rabid women bare knuckle fighters. This one, "The Death Match," has a real anything goes feel to it and some pretty disturbing images. It's all surface, but what a mad, rubbery, warped surface it is. It is fun, trashy exploitation pulp, but despite its references to other stories in an attempt to develop a story arc, does not really do much to take the series forward.

Aric Davis's "The Death Match" is a more generic tale of people driven feral and berserk by a new variant of crystal meth in a sleepy backwater state. Those under the influence are the infected from 28 days later by any other name. Another off the scale body count ensues as Matt attempts to stop the production of the meth at source. Again it's an effective and visceral action page turner that moves too fast for you to ask questions.

David Tully's "The Killing Floor" swerves into Lovecraft territory as a demonic entity rises from the depths, driving all around it from their wits. It has the most solid storytelling of the 3, and Matt's showdown with this creature (and Mr Dark) is pretty impressive.

The book does what it sets out to do, entertain and thrill and build on a series that has been a collaborative effort. But the furious pace defeats any attempt at deeper meaning or storytelling. Attempts to set up an arc are not convincing because they focus on slight details and go nowhere. There is just a bit of random name-checking from previous instalments. There are some interesting ideas about spiritual corruption, but as the stories barrel along they are not developed. Still, if you want Tolstoy, read Tolstoy, if you want to feed your inner 15 year old, grab this.
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Location: Dunton, United Kingdom

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