I love Richard Kadrey’s work. I have since I first stumbled upon Kamikaze L’Amour (which remains my favorite of his books) when I was in high school. Quite a few of his books have since made it onto my all-time favorites list. Dead Set, however, didn’t.
Dead Set follows Zoe through her new life, her life after her dad died, her life after a move to the city, her life after a self-harm induced visit to rehab. Things are not going so great, money’s tight, school sucks, people suck, Zoe’s life sucks. She has no one, but her secret brother who lives inside her dreams. Then she finds a record store where the records don’t play music, but rather the souls of people and her dad’s is there. A lock of hair, a tooth, a bit of blood, Zoe is willing to pay whatever price it takes to see her dad again and through the magic of the store she is able to go to the afterlife to visit with him. After she comes back things are starting to look up, but that feeling is short lived as weird things start happening and the dream world she shares with her brother is invaded by a mysterious stranger.
I did like this book, but the pacing seemed off, feeling rushed at times, particularly towards the end. I also had some issues with the character connections like the insta-friendship between Zoe and a random girl at her school. The surreal weirdness of the afterlife and the characters there, however, were fantastic and I loved all the Valentine parts, and also that there was no romantic tie in at all in this young adult novel about a girl.
If Goodreads allowed for half-number ratings I would have given Dead Set a 3.5, but alas it does not, so it instead gets a 3.
A word about my rating system:
- 5 star – Reserved for my all-time favorites, books I can read again and again and never tire of.
- 4 star – These are books I really liked or found very interesting. I would look for more by the author of these.
- 3 star – These are books I liked somewhat or liked aspects of, but that I was not completely wowed by. No need to read more of the author.
- 2 star – These are books that were just okay. They had the basic building blocks of story or at least most of them, but failed to deliver anything above and beyond.
- 1 star – Trash, complete drivel. Missing basic elements of story, 1 dimensional characters, unoriginal plot, glaring continuity / grammar / factual errors, no world building, etc. I don’t like to use this rating very often, so I typically abandon these books before the end as an act of mercy for both myself and the author’s ratings.
- abandoned – These are books that I didn’t finish for one reason or another. Sometimes they are just bad, like books that would get a 1 star rating. Sometimes the books are really good, but they are not what I was expecting or not something I’m really interested in reading all the way through. Once things go into the abandoned pile, however, I never revisit them.