DEAD SET by Richard Kadrey


Harper Collins
Pub date: October 29th, 2013

Sometimes something comes out of left field. Something that you least expected. Something that you never saw coming. You could call it a surprise if you like. Sometimes those can suck. Others can turn out to be pleasant experiences. So I got this package in the mail a week or 2 back. It contained a copy of Richard Kadrey’s new stand-alone young adult novel. That right there gave me pause. I thought to myself “Richard Kadrey wrote a YA novel….holy shit”. It didn’t take long for my surprise to give way to curiosity. I needed to get to the bottom of this. It’s not like I expected to be notified that this was happening. People are allowed to write whatever they want. I guess what I’m trying to say is just when you think you have somebody locked into a particular genre or style, they show you just how wrong you are.

Dead Set is the story of Zoe, a high school girl who has recently lost her father. She and her mother have moved to the city for a shot at a new life but things aren’t easy. Money is tight and jobs are scarce. Starting a new high school is no picnic either. Zoe does have one thing going for her and those happen to be her dreams. Her dreams are a world of freedom and solace. In her dreams there are no such things as loneliness or anxiety. Zoe’s favorite part of her dreams is that it’s the only place she can spend time with her lost brother Valentine. Unfortunately something dark has crept into her private world and threatens all that gives her peace. One day while ditching school, Zoe wanders into a used record store. This isn’t just any cool old record store. It has a special section of records that contain the souls of the dead in their grooves. When these records are played they open a window into the world of the departed. The owner of the store makes Zoe an incredible offer. He will arrange for her to listen to the record containing her father’s soul…for a price. Now you know that must be a hefty sum. It starts with a lock of hair and then moves on to a tooth. Soon Zoe has to decide just how much she is willing to pay to spend time with someone she dearly misses.

Ok, the first thing I have to say it I was hooked from the first sentence of the book. Kadrey again has painted a world that draws you in with its mysterious yet frightening beauty. Many times I felt this book was dancing back and forth over the line between YA territory and that of an adult novel. The imagery is just phenomenal. At times I felt it was one of the saddest stories I have ever read. At others, I felt myself rooting for Zoe the way I have for some of my favorite MMA fighters after stepping into the cage. I am a massive Kadrey fan and I feel he can do no wrong and that carries over to this book. I loved it. The only thing I can say that would be possibly considered negative is that I feel this book would have been better served as a novel written solely for adults.

Dave Wahlman