Remember my adversion to multiple POVs and third person? Forget everything I’ve said so far and repeat this with me: THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. Entertaining, compelling characters? Check. Surreal setting? Check. Interesting plot? Check, again. I’m gonna have a really hard time writing something coherent enough about this novel because it is perfect.
I’m talking about Dead Heads, by R Young, and here’s my review.
As you might or might not know, I have a Twitter account that I use to follow a lot of authors, including R. Young. His snippets on some of his characters were so adorable that I just had to buy the first book of his series and see if it was as good as I imagined.
Spoiler: it is.
First thing first, the setting. You know how a lot of authors feel the need to explain their worlds, giving a lot of details about them when there’s no need to? R Young’s Gloomwood simply exists, and all its oddities and curiosities are just there. And I love it! It’s so easy to understand what’s going on when it’s shown effectively.
And if Gloomwood is bizzarre, wait until you meet its inhabitants. Normies like you and me, sure, but also demigods, dead hopes and promises, half-invisible people and heads that go missing and yet are still capable of talking. There’s celebrities, TV troupes, weird special agents and very entertaining policemen. It is a lot, you’ll say, and I agree. Had it been… well, any other book, you’d have probably read my complaints about it not adhering to a standard structure. And yet this one not only works, but it’s one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in the past few years.
Let me take a step back and tell you a bit about the story here:
Augustan Blunt is a washed out cop with a bad attitude, a drinking problem and a troubled past. He’s also dead, but that’s okay: so is everyone else. Other than that, things are just peachy. Someone has stolen the Grim Reaper’s head and Blunt has been told to find it. In a new city where the rules of the living don’t apply, Blunt’s up to his neck in the brown stuff and he’s never been much of a swimmer. With the aid of a woman who keeps turning involuntarily invisible, a journalist who hasn’t written an article since she died, and a bureaucrat who can’t say no to anyone, Blunt’s got to stop whoever is stealing the heads of the city’s elite. As he begins his investigations he finds things aren’t all they seem. Who are the Gloomwood Youth Order? What do you call the murder of someone already dead? Why are people having their heads chopped off? And what is in the hot dogs? With time slipping away, he needs to learn what makes the city tick before there’s no city left.
While you won’t learn what hot dogs are made of, anything else is revealed in the end. The journey toward it feels like a spiral: there are many POV characters that seem to do things unrelated to the mystery, but everything is connected, and the plot develops circle after circle until detective Augustan Blunt, freshly departed, is able to connect almost all the dots and realize what is going on. Sadly, there’s an heartbreaking surprise awaiting for him, one that made me tear up after having spent most of the book chuckling. And hey, I can’t stress enough on how much talent is required to involve a reader to the point of tears! You have to care for the characters in order to cry for them, and R Young was able to make me care about Blunt for sure.
The writing in this novel is brilliant and surreal, and while the form isn’t always perfect, I’m willing to forgive some missing commas when I get this much entertainment in exchange. The dialogues are on point: you won’t find boring monologues or evil speeches here, only people being and behaving like themselves. And what about all these coherent and diverse characters, each of them having their own personality? I am genuinely in awe.
What? Are you asking me if I’ve been able to find any flaws here? Well, as I said, there are some missing commas here and there. Not a big deal at all, if you ask me. And there is a small passage around 56% of the book where an information about one of the severed heads is repeated in a confusing way. To be honest, that piece of info leads nowhere anyway, which is a real pity because I would have loved to see Blunt in a car with a body, driving senselessly and checking on it every now and then to see if it moves. Yeah, I know it makes little sense to you, but it will if you read this novel.
I could go on and on for hours, but I think I’ve made my love for Dead Heads clear enough. My final vote is 4.5/5 Goodreads stars. Great job, I can’t wait to read the sequel.