by Laura J. Campbell

She wondered if – after you were dead – you ever dreamed of Earth?

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Christopher Rohde via Creative Commons

Her papers whirled through the scanner, giving her a few moments to think. It was usually too hectic to think. But while the machine gave her the opportunity, she looked outside the big office window. It was 5 pm and the commuters were hurrying home. The sky was periwinkle, large cotton ball clouds assaulted by the heavy orange light of the setting sun.

There was a smell of autumn in the air, thick wet leaves falling from the oaks. She had been very upset recently, stress from work, from relationships, from impending holidays. And then she remembered: her father’s last consciousness had been in autumn. Before the cancer had claimed him. Mind, body, spirit.

She had dreamed the night before, her father appearing to her in the dream, speaking comfort and giving her the most reassuring hug she had in years. They say that when you dream of a dead loved one, they are in Heaven thinking about you.

She wondered if the dead remembered the smell of autumn, the wind brushing dead leaves from the trees, the autumn sky becoming heavy with the setting sun. Did the dead dream of the living?

The scanner stopped, its task complete. The world swallowed her again.


Laura J. CampbellLaura Campbell lives and writes in Houston, Texas. She is an internationally published author, with over two dozen short stories published in the dark fiction, horror, and science fiction genres. She also has two novels (Blue Team One and Five Houses) currently in publication. In 2008 she won the James Award for her short science fiction story 416175. Her husband, Patrick, and children, Alexander and Samantha, support and encourage her daily in her writing.

Half-Resurrection Blues
Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Half-Resurrection Blues is the kind of novel that’s somehow more than the sum of its parts. Superficially, it’s the story of Carlos Delacruz, a partially (or previously) dead bounty hunter working the gray area between the world of the living and the world of the dead. There’s a shadowy Council calling Carlos’s shots, a fantastical plot afoot, a lot of intriguing and memorable characters, a love story, elements of noir and mystery and magic and romance and horror all mashed together.

Which all sounds well and good enough, but it’s not entirely fresh on the surface, excepting that for the most part HRB avoids the heavy religious under- (or over-) tones from a lot of other life/afterlife/death urban fantasies I’ve read. But even beyond that, what sets HRB apart is the phenomenal pacing, the expert character crafting, and the spot-on plotting Mr Older manages. There are a lot of events, a lot of characters, and none of it feels overwhelming or sketchy. Each major development is well-earned, the wildly imaginative sequences outside the vibrant Brooklyn he creates are all crisply narrated to avoid the muddled description issue that plagues some other writers in this space. But at no point does the book bog down, belaboring the machine underneath the plot. There is always something happening, something looming, something just about to surprise the reader. Some of this is probably due to the way the plot is delivered primarily through a lot of crisp, real-world-feeling dialogue instead of overblown narration. Carlos is a terrific guide through Older’s world, and even when he’s making mistakes, it’s impossible not to root for him to come out on top.

There is so much to like here, including the fact that even though I was worried the ending would be unsatisfying or rushed based on how much was left unresolved and how quickly the end of the book was approaching, but Older manages a neat trick of hitting the peak of all the major story arcs at once right when it needs to and then tidies up in just a handful of concluding pages. This is a complete book in and of itself, which is a relief even though there is at least one sequel; I’ve been burned a lot recently by series books that, by virtue of their ongoing nature, don’t feel inclined to find a legitimate conclusion.

I heavily recommend this book. It’s dark, fun, spooky, surprising, fast-paced, and wonderful. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, because I can’t wait to spend more time in the world and with these memorable characters.

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