As longtime readers have probably noticed, zombies and zombie killers have recently eaten my brain, my homework, and pretty much my waking life. Prior to this, however, another paranormal creature ruled my heart. From my first viewing of Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, which scared the life out of me at 6, they’ve been MY monster. I told a boy on the bus when I was 9 that I was going to be the “bride of a vampire” when I grew up. My fifth grade report, complete with custom made black cover, was about vampires. I carried a copy of The Vampire Lestat in my purse my entire sophomore and junior years. I saw The Lost Boys over 100 times in theaters. From folklore to fiction, I have studied our fanged friends pretty extensively. I suppose it’s hardly surprising that I grew to be a spooky kid, and an adult whose wardrobe contains entirely too much black. As IF such a thing was possible!
Thanks to a certain book trilogy, many people think vampires are passé, a joke. I would not be one of them. I vaguely remember the uproar when Anne Rice had her vampires able to see themselves in mirrors, despite the fact that this is mostly a Hollywood affectation that I don’t recall reading in any folklore I have researched. Mess with what people “know” about vampires, which was mostly established by the late great Bela Lugosi in 1931, at your peril. Fans will lambast you endlessly. Internet humorists will create sarcastic memes about you. Of course, as I have said in the past, I am sure this troubles the authors of such works not at all. Legends deserve reinvention from time to time.
The novel I want to share with you today is the first publication of a friend of mine, Nicholai Conliff. Although our face to face meetings have been few, Nicholai’s name popping up on any social network we’ve shared has always been a reason to smile. Whether it was a blog post or merely a status update, his words always had a certain precision I enjoyed. So, of course, when he told me he’d finished his debut novel, I was thrilled, and lucky to be among its first readers. I enjoyed Unburied, and I’ll enjoy sharing it with you.
According to the author: “74-year-old Ashley Miller, a former child soldier of the German army in World War II, spends what should have been his old age in peaceful isolation: he keeps his lawn up to neighborhood standards, listens to records, sticks to his diet, longs for the faces that have left his life . . . and hasn’t aged a day since 1942.
Part historical, part literary horror, UNBURIED oscillates between past and present to form a cohesive dual narrative dismissing the tropes of paranormal genre fiction.”
Unburied reveals itself skillfully, in teasing glimpses. The historical elements are an integral part of the story, but are very immediate to the reader. This is not a typical modern vampire story, although elements of folklore are used that the casual fan might not even recognize. Epic in scope, the piece manages to be character driven. This is a moody, atmospheric, densely packed book, full of feeling. It’s not for the faint of heart. Unburied is unpredictable, because it departs from what we’ve come to expect from horror. It shies from nothing, but Conliff has not come to the table to be crass. There’s a word we don’t hear very often lately—dread. That’s just what is invoked here.
On the Imaqulotta Scale, I rate this book to be Heavenly.