Sunday, January 3, 2010All across the United States, a strange phenomenon has been taking place. Sometimes when teenagers die they come back to life. Only, returned from the hands of death, these teens are no longer the same. They move differently and speak with difficulty, struggling to find a place in a society that fears and rejects them and provides no laws to protect them from people who would like to see them dead for good.
Phoebe is a student at Oakvale High, a school attempting to be more welcoming of the "differently biotic." Pheobe is just your average goth teen with a crush, only the boy that she is crushing on is dead. But there is something different about Tommy Williams and Pheobe is determined to forge a connection with him.
I have always been a fan of zombie stories, what with the desperation of survivors huddled together in their hideaway listening to the moans of the undead outside who will inevitably break in and devour their flesh, so I find this latest trend of wanting to take a zombie as your date to the school dance to be a little... odd. Oh sure, I enjoyed Never Slow Dance With a Zombie by E. Van Lowe enough for it's cute quirkiness but Daniel Water's debut novel Generation Dead is aiming for a deeper social commentary but therefore trips over itself with things like Phoebe being a stereotypical goth who writes poetry, spikes her hair, and of course becomes fascinated by the dead guy. I could suppose that Water's aims to look at how the dead rising from their graves impacts upon a sub-culture that takes an interest in the theme of death (I do not know much about the goth sub-culture, but Waters wants me to believe that all goth persons are very interested in death) but then again, seeing as he is trying to commentate on diversity and discrimination it seems odd to make the main character so very stereotypical. Then there is the name dropping of goth bands every few pages. Apparently when you die your taste in music also changes to reflect your undead state.
I found Generation Dead quite hard to get into at first. I made my way about ninety pages in before putting it aside for a week. However, when I came back to it I did find it better going and was able to finish the book in one sitting.
Generation Dead does have some good going for it. I think that the concept is quite good and has a lot of potential if only there were fewer stereotypical characters (and less band name dropping). Phoebe and her friend Margi's history with the now dead Collette, for example, was a plotline that really took my interest. I enjoyed how the details were revealed and how it was impacting on Margi but thought that it should have had more influence on Phoebe as well. The use of the study group aimed at developing a better understanding of the "differently biotic" allowed for some interesting dialogue, as well.
I have come away with mixed feelings on Generation Dead. Daniel Water's has a good concept here but the details could use some polishing and perhaps did not engage me as well as it could have.