Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Wake The Dead

To Wake The Dead (known as Amara in many markets) is a posthumously-published Richard Laymon novel about a resurrected mummy on the loose. I was looking forward to it, as a mummy has been a totemic horror icon since the release of the 1932 version of The Mummy, but one that rarely pops up in fiction.

(Students of human behavior talk about our Great White Whales – tasks we can’t complete or goals we can’t achieve. From a reading point of view, my Great White Whale is Anne Rice’s The Mummy. I am not a fan of Ms. Rice. I found Interview With The Vampire to be worthwhile, but the rest of her work I’ve read, I find unbearably awful. I also blame her for the trend of vampires in entertainment talking like freshmen in Philosophy 101. Nonetheless, a friend gave me The Mummy when it was published, almost twenty years ago, and I’ve tried to read it ever since. I’ve made at least six determined efforts to read it, and never made it to page 100. I will read it one day, perhaps post-senility.)

To Wake The Dead has a simple plot, although there is a complicated structure. The basic story is familiar: Amara, a wife of a Pharoah, is mummified along with her baby, cursed to live eternally. The protective seal is broken, and she goes on a rampage to find her baby, which was burned 150 years earlier. Carnage ensues.

I’m a big fan of Laymon. He is one of the most underappreciated authors ever to work in horror. But, while the book is entertaining, this isn’t anywhere near one of his best. There are far to many subplots: People held in bizarre sexual slavery, a homeless woman stalking a cop’s girlfriend, the custodian of the estate which owned Amara’s sexual peccadilloes, and so on. This was published posthumously, and you have to wonder if there would have been more substantial editing/rewriting had Laymon lived. There have been rumors that Dean Koontz, who was a friend of Richard Laymon, and who writes the introduction to the book, may have done some work on it. (Part of the story is told from the viewpoint of a dog, which Koontz readers will recognize as a trademark.) I have no idea if this is true, but if so, part of the problem might be their styles just don’t mix. Still it was a fun read, just not up to Laymon’s usual high standards.

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