To Wake The Dead (Book)

By Richard Laymon

Published by Leisure Books

Since his untimely death on Valentine’s Day, 2001, interest in author Richard Laymon has been steadily growing. Though his readership in the U.S. faded in the mid-90’s, he continued to enjoy success abroad until he passed away. Now, thanks to Leisure Books, one of his last books will be released in paperback in November of 2004, and like King said, “If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.”

To Wake The Dead (which was released in the UK as Amara, after the name of the mummy in the book) takes three separate narratives and meshes them together in a way few other authors are able to do. The one factor that brings them all together eventually is the repeated disappearance of the 4,000-year-old mummy Amara. After a wealthy collector dies, the mummy is donated to a museum for safekeeping, but all is not well. Someone broke the blessed seals on the coffin that contained her desiccated corpse, and since Amara isn’t in the best of moods (she was seen as a heretic in her day and age and was not allowed to rest in peace), she walks the night searching for the one thing that will allow her rest again and killing anything or anyone that stands in her way.

I should warn you that this story is not really about the mummy. The mummy is there and is the reason so much stuff goes bad for our characters, but this is not what one would call a “mummy book.” The origins of the creature are detailed, including a very entertaining sequence written as a diary entry of the aforementioned wealthy collector who found her, but we’re not suffering through characters trying to figure out how to get rid of her and how to find her for the length of the story; indeed, they only become aware of her for the most part at the very, very end. The rest of the time we’re seeing all the other horrible things that happen to some of them that cause their paths to cross with those of the mummy.

Does that sound confusing? I apologize if it does, but basically what we have is a book full of characters that have their own problems — from the kid that gets dumped and left in the middle of a valley outside of L.A. only to get kidnapped and stuck in a cage, to the teenage runaways that find all sorts of real life problems on their way to L.A., to the museum curator whose new boyfriend has a homicidal bagwoman making her life hell — and how they deal with them. Eventually, all the threads come together and the characters come into contact with each other…and the undead.

Did I mention this is a damn good book? It is. The horror is not only of the supernatural variety but also of the real life kind, the type of horror that tends to affect me deeper because it’s so much more likely to happen. Laymon did a brilliant job of mixing the two into a great, fast-paced novel that I would recommend to anyone that just enjoys good reading. It’s my first experience with Richard Laymon, which is something I have to rectify as soon as possible. Leisure Books seems to be facilitating this quite nicely in that they’ve released or are releasing many of his titles on paperback.

Give it a chance; I guarantee you’re going to be impressed and go back for more.

3 ½ out of 5

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Johnny Butane