Known for writing quirky supernatural-themed books, Kadrey’s latest offering doesn’t stray far from the formula cherished by his readers.
Zoe’s having a bad time: Her father died and left the teen and her mom almost destitute. They’ve moved into a fourth-floor walk-up in a sketchy neighborhood, Mom’s trying to get back into the job market after many years, and Zoe isn’t crazy about her new high school, where the only person with whom she’s made friends is a girl who calls herself Absynthe. Then Zoe wanders into a store selling rare old vinyl records. Her parents were heavily involved in the early punk music scene, and she’s grown up with a huge library of LPs, but this store has something besides ordinary music in it. Zoe stumbles upon a room that holds some odd-looking records and a weird machine that the creepy and strange looking proprietor says can help her connect with her dead father. When Zoe opts in, she finds that the proprietor demands an odd sort of payment each time she visits: He instructs her to bring parts of herself ranging from a lock of hair to a tooth to blood. And while that gives her pause, she also finds that the peculiar dreams she has always had are not what they seem, and the long road to finding her dead father leads to a nightmarish place where bad things happen. While the tale’s both well-crafted and imaginative, it’s not going to be every reader’s cup of tea, although fans of zombie novels may find the author's take on the dead unique. Zoe and her family present themselves as sympathetic and interesting, but the storyline is unsettling, and the ending seems both rushed and tacked on, like the author ran out of steam in the final third of the book and just decided to get it over with.
The writing is top-notch, but for many, the book will prove an acquired taste.