TO WAKE THE DEAD

Richard Laymon, Author , intro. by Dean Koontz. Leisure $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8439-5104-2

Published last year in the U.K. as Amara, this exuberantly entertaining horror novel is grade-A Laymon, certainly his strongest to be issued stateside since his death in 2001. (When the market for his novels dried up here in the 1990s, this critically neglected author continued to publish and to sell well both in the U.K. and Australia.) As is often the case with Laymon, three plot strands loop through the narrative, braiding at novel's end to garrote the reader. The three are the murderous rampage of a resurrected female mummy in southern California (this plot line also includes an exciting first-person reminiscence set in 1926 Egypt by the man who excavates the mummy from its tomb); the nighttime meditations of a lonely young blind woman in California; and the ordeals of assorted victims kidnapped to an underground prison where they are sexually abused, sometimes slain, by unseen predators when the lights go out. The plot thread involving the mummy is the least interesting, because the staggering ferocious monster at its core shows as little character as the mummies of old Universal horror flicks; she's simply a force to be fought, though Laymon raises plenty of goose pimples here. The meditations of the blind woman sound a sad note that reverberates throughout and deepens the surrounding horrors; and truly amazing—inventive and transgressive—are the scenes set in the underground chamber, tours de force of pitch-black horror. Like all good Laymon novels, this one hurtles from start to finish—never mind the large cast and tripartite plot—and as in all Laymons, the sex, violence and violent sex will leave even jaded readers gasping. Bring on the popcorn. Laymon is back. (Sept. 2)

Reviewed on: 08/25/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 386 pages - 978-0-8439-5468-5
Paperback - 421 pages - 978-1-4778-3713-9
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