Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Christopher Golden
Published by MTV Books
I’ve read a lot of Christopher Golden over the years and if there’s one thing I can say about the man, it’s that he never settles for one style. From his Veil series to his Shadow Saga to his collaboration with fellow writers on tomes focusing on the work of Stephen King or the world of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, Golden’s work is always growing and evolving. Knowing this, I was still surprised at just how fun, gory and full of heart Soulless is.
The story opens as three famous mediums gather in a TV studio for the world’s first live séance, to be broadcast live all over the East Coast. Intended as more of a publicity stunt than anything else, no one expects that the séance would actually work, let alone bring the dead back to life.
But as soon as the mediums go under, that’s exactly what happens. We follow four separate storylines that slowly converge as the phenomenon of the hungry dead goes from minor problem to full-blown crisis. Eventually all eyes converge on the big studio in the middle of Times Square where the mediums, who have not woken from their near-comatose state nor been able to be separated, continue channeling the spirits of the dead into our world.
Our heroes include a Nickelodeon pop diva who is finally coming into her own and afraid of the fact that she’s a lesbian ruining her career, a tattooed gangbanger from Brooklyn who is, at first, on the run for his life from his former gang, a pair of students with wildly differing world views pushed together because of convenience and geography, and a girl stuck with her best friend in their house, fighting for their lives. Each has their own struggles and internal conflicts to deal with, on top of fighting off the living dead, and Golden does a superb job of balancing them all so you never loose track of what’s going on and always manage to care what’s happening to the characters.
Of the many positive aspects of Soulless, one that stood out prominently is Golden’s explanation for the dead returning to life. It’s not a new theory, mind you, but the first time it’s been used for the purposes of the living dead. Humans consist of three elements; body, spirit and soul. When you die you soul, the good parts of you, go someplace else. Your sprit, the basest, most animal part of you, can stay behind, however. So when the dead come back they’re all spirit and body. They’re empty since they have no soul, so they’re working on their most primal need: to feed. For some reason, we just taste really good to them.
This is the explanation, but it’s never beaten over the readers head or explained ad nauseum by different characters, because why it’s happening isn’t as important as how it can be stopped; the one goal all our heroes, and I use that term loosely, share.
In all honesty if no one told you that Soulless was written as a young adult novel, there’d be no reason for you to assume it was other than the fact that the main character are all in their teens and twenties. The violence, the drama, the gore, the heartbreaking decisions and painful realizations these characters go through are all very adult and not indicative of most young adult books, even others by Golden.
In all honesty, Soulless might be one of the best zombie noels I’ve read in a long time and believe me, I’ve read a lot. Golden’s deft hand at combining horror with serious human elements has never been more apparent than it is here, and I’m happy to say he continues to surprise me.
4 out 5
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