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Shelf Indulgence

Books. Reviews.

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Aftermath
Chuck Wendig
Dhalgren
Samuel R. Delany
Jackals
Charles L. Grant

The Returned

The Returned - Jason Mott In The Returned, the dead have come back to life. This isn't a zombie story, nor is it even a horror novel (the dead return as if they had never left, to the point of returning in the same condition and emotional state they were in when they died). The story is more about how folks react to the returned, from the individuals like the relatives of those who have returned and the general public, to the government and other official organizations and how they deal with a sudden burst of population.

The Returned has a weighty theme, and has a lot of deep moments, but the way the story is told feels light and breezy. It's a strange dichotomy, especially when you consider that Mott is a poet. I expected the narrative to have more weight, to feel more serious, sort of like how Galveston read, and I won't lie: I was a little disappointed. I was looking for that gravitas in his prose, and missed it when it wasn't there.

It's easy to tell that Mott is a poet as you read the book. There are many colorful turns of phrase and poignant observations, and when they're a part of the narrative, they really dress up the story, but when they became part of the characters' dialogue ... well, are you familiar with Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls? If you've seen it, you might recall those moments where the characters suddenly went from speaking like normal people to spouting poetry. Remember how jarring that was? That's sort of how it felt reading Mott's poetry coming from the mouths of the characters.

Ultimately, the story is about the theme, and it's definitely one that will get you thinking, and encourage discussion among those people who've read the book. The problem is that it doesn't strike me as a particularly good story. Harold and Lucille are the focus of the novel, the one couple that Mott chose to represent the people who are dealing with all the people who are returning. There are good and bad moments, passages where they fight and those where they agree, but what transpires from beginning to end wasn't that convincing to me. It's not quite a science fiction or fantasy book (there's never any explanation given to explain why the returned are returning), but that's not really the problem. It's just not cohesive enough carry the theme.

Depending on what you read fiction for -- story, character, or theme -- will likely determine whether or not you like the book. If you're primarily a story person, I think you'll be disappointed; if you're more into character, I think you'll like it well enough; if you prefer a good theme, then don't hesitate to read The Returned. It's definitely worth it.