Nekropolis: Mildly enjoyable

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Tim Waggoner The Matt Richter Series 1. Nekropolis 2. Dead StreetsNekropolis by Tim Waggoner

At first blush, Tim Waggoner’s Nekropolis seems derivative. A dark city where the sun never shines? Check. A central bar with an enigmatic bartender? Check. Predatory traffic and a strange sentient vehicle? Check. Vampires, ghouls, zombies and demons? Check. An outsider detective? Check again. Surely I’m reading one of Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE books — oh, no, wait. This is something else.

Waggoner may just be the victim of bad timing. In his Afterword, he writes about how long he spent developing the ideas for Nekropolis. Green’s Nightside beat Waggoner’s original Five Star Press publication into print by less than a year, so the similarities may be coincidental.

Once I got past the strong feeling of déjà vu, I found Nekropolis mildly enjoyable. I do think a zombie detective is out of the ordinary, and Matt Richter, Waggoner’s detective, is an unusual zombie, a former Cleveland cop who followed a serial killer through an inter-dimensional portal — really, don’t these people ever learn? — and ended up in Nekropolis. The serial killer turned out to be a powerful Nekropolitan sorcerer, using the brains of his Earth victims as an ingredient in a spell. Matt managed to stop him, died in the process, and reanimated as a zombie. No one knows why. He has self-will, and no appetite for brains. He has no appetites at all. Matt exists in the city of Nekropolis by doing favors for people; an unofficial private detective.

Nekropolis was carved out of an alternate dimension by Dis, the Father of Night, as a refuge for all the dark beings who used to roam Earth. Dis relocated all of them except for the occasional vampire who goes back to check on their business interests. Since there are portals, however, there is quite a bit of unofficial traffic between the realms. Besides Dis, five Darklords rule Nekropolis and once a year, on Descension Day, help Dis to recharge the spell that holds the city in place.

This Descension Day, Matt is approached by Devona, the half-vampire, half-human daughter of a Darklord. An artifact has been stolen from the collection she caretakes for her father, and she wants Matt to help her find it. A little research shows that the artifact is powerful. In the wrong hands it could destroy the city.

I enjoyed the mystery quite a bit. It was clever and the villain was interesting. In his investigation, Matt tangles with each of the Darklords. One of them already bears him a grudge since she was bankrolling the sorcerer Matt defeated in the battle that zombified him.

Devona had all the interest of a stale potato chip for the first hundred pages or so, but then she started to grow up. In one scene, she “bared her fangs and hissed like a cougar on crack.” How can you not love that? Still, in one book it’s hard to believe Matt’s and Devon’s relationship comes as far as it does, even with the convenient plot point that is employed to bring them closer together.

Matt is adequate as a character, but Waggoner runs into exactly the problems you might expect with a zombie main character. Matt keeps losing pieces of himself; it’s played well for laughs and also has some deeper significance. He has no sense of touch, taste, or smell, yet his sight and his hearing are fine and there’s no real reason why except that he has to be able to detect. Waggoner can’t rationalize this one very well. The simple fact of the matter is, for a main character, there is no upside to being a zombie. Matt’s defensive strategies are clever and fun to watch, though, and it’s clear that his brain still functions just fine.

The Nightside books went for the eerie and weird; Nekropolis highlights the physically disgusting and gross. I don’t particularly care for disgusting and gross, but I think Waggoner does it well.

In other places, the writing is good, non-disgusting fun:

The Atrium of Demon’s Roost looks as if it had been ground zero during the explosion of an atomic kitsch bomb. Gaudy pastel-colored carpeting, black velvet paintings in neon-tube frames, mirrored disco-balls spinning above… We passed a wall collage formed from thousands of tiny cheap toys from fast-food kids’ meals, and soon after that, my favorite piece, a thirty-foot tall pewter statue of Elvis, gazing benevolently down on a flock of plastic pink flamingos.

If you like this type of book, whether you choose Nekropolis will come down purely to personal taste. There is nothing really wrong here. The city is laid out by the numbers; the hero is a melancholy zombie; he has a fun demon sidekick who shows up now and again and a killer girlfriend who is docile and supportive to him. It’s a formula, and Waggoner works well within that formula, but I personally never felt pulled along by the events. Nekropolis is a weird city, but maybe, in the end, not quite weird enough.

The Matt Richter Series — (2009-2011) Publisher: Meet Matt Richter. Private Eye. Zombie. His mean streets are the city of the dead, the shadowy realm known as Nekropolis. This place has always been ruled by the vampire lords. Now they’re planning to destroy the city. Over his dead body. More pulp than Pulp Fiction, more butt-kicking than Buffy, Nekropolis is the first in a deathly new series. FILE UNDER: Urban Fantasy [Zombie Detective / Undead City / Crime Overload / Sexy Vampires]

fantasy book reviews Tim Waggoner The Matt Richter Series 1. Nekropolis 2. Dead Streetsfantasy book reviews Tim Waggoner The Matt Richter Series 1. Nekropolis 2. Dead Streetsfantasy book reviews Tim Waggoner The Matt Richter Series 1. Nekropolis 2. Dead Streets 3. Dark War


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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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