After reading Lorne Dixon's previous book, SNARL, I'd been waiting to gobble up more of his fiction. I got the chance (after a relatively short wait) with his latest offering, THE LIFELESS, and yet again Dixon proves why he's a writer worth following. The book immediately tosses us head-first into the midst of a terrorist attack, the effects of which produce a toxic rainfall that kills (and subsequently returns to life) anyone who comes in contact with it.
Dixon knows exactly what buttons to push here. Within moments the reader can't help but be taken back to the horrors that unfolded in this country nearly a decade ago and the fear and helplessness that went along with it. As the explosions rock the early pages of this novel, you know the road you're headed down (or at least you think you do), and you know what people must be feeling, because we've been there before. Dixon reveals the events in a way that is sure to send shivers up your spine.
But as effective as he is at showing us the big picture, it's when he focuses the camera in close that Dixon show's off his well-honed ability at telling the tale. The story moves to a small group of high school students that have been spared the fate of their fellow classmates, now a hoard of blood-thirsty undead whose only desire is to snuff out any remaining life in the vicinity. The students remain trapped in the school's library, desperately trying to find a means of escape. But if you're looking for a story about human diversity and how people join together in moments of extreme distress, you've come to the wrong place. The lines that divided these kids during normal life remain in place even while the dead beat at the doors. The gritty reality that pervades this book is why Dixon is bound to become a prominent name in the genre for years to come.
Before long, we realize that the savagery of the undead isn't that dissimilar from the ruthlessness of the living. The heroes and leaders in this story are not who you'd expect. And as much as you think you can predict what will happen, each page seems to twist your expectations in every other direction.
Dixon doesn't waste words. The prose is smooth, natural, and easy to digest. And while he's great at cutting right to the punches, he still finds a way to seamlessly weave in a layer of depth to the characters. You almost don't notice it, but you quickly realize that you really care about these people, and from that moment forward you're hooked.
The ending further hammers home the theme and tone of the rest of the book: This is no fairy tale. No walking off into the sunset. Dixon manages to stir up all of our emotions, and after turning the final page you'll want to sit back and let it all finally sink in. And after that, you'll undoubtedly feel that growing hunger for more of his work.