EMPIRE DECAYED by Daniel Kraus


From the "Death and Life of Zebulon Finch" series, volume 2
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Born in 1879, murdered in 1896, and awakened 17 minutes later as a sort of animated cadaver, Zebulon Finch offers this second installment of his autobiography, spanning 1941 to the 21st century.

Blond, white, self-proclaimed handsome devil Finch, perpetually 17, continues his limping course through key moments of American history. He unfailingly reveals humanity’s most brutal tendencies, including World War II concentration camps, the vitriol of 1950s suburban housewives, and chronic abuses within mental health facilities. As in The Edge of Empire (2015), Finch still occasionally longs for acceptance from his fellow man, even fantasizing about becoming a stepfather figure at one point. But any sympathy these episodes may garner from readers is soon destroyed by his inevitable return to cruelty. It’s difficult to forgive decisions like his formation of a strange 1970s desert cult in which he encourages followers to practice cannibalism. Kraus’ signature gory prose offers details of these practices: “A typical recipe was to remove a chunk of meat from one’s thigh…and simmer it in broth before offering it to a friend.…It was an acquired taste, so new mothers rubbed blood on their nipples so that their breastfeeding children would develop the craving.” Moments like these may haunt readers far beyond any of Finch’s emotional or theological ruminations. In the end, Finch's fancy vocabulary and occasionally affected formality never obscure his interior monster.

A grisly reflection on human nature. (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1142-4
Page count: 784pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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