Original Release Date: February 20, 2010
“Morgue of the Dead,” the 2010 self-published debut novel from author L.A. Taylor, is an intriguing read, and the book is going to make for an even more intriguing review. Normally I begin most of my reviews with a side story or some general thoughts on a variety of semi-relevant topics, but with this one, I think I’d like to jump right in and have at it. So: away we go!
“Morgue of the Dead” (or known by its shortened name as depicted on the cover, “M.D.”) tells a fairly standard beginning-of-the-zompocalypse tale. Set in the United Kingdom in what appears to be the present day, an experimental agricultural compound is used at a local farm (and in the garden of a bank manager who wheeled-and-dealed his way into getting a bag) in the hopes of eradicating a voracious pest that has been attacking crops. Wouldn’t you know it, a freak rainstorm pops up (in England? Say it ain’t so!). The water lets the pesticide mix with the dead bodies of a local vagrant and the bank manager’s mother, who was conveniently buried in his garden, and they both reanimate. Throw in some subplots about a bank robbery, some marriages on the rocks, and the aforementioned morgue, and the mayhem is soon officially in full swing.
Let’s hop right into the Score to talk more about this one:
G: General Entertainment – The story itself is a solid one. Knowledgeable zombie fans will draw immediate parallels between this book and the 1970s film The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. Both are set in the United Kingdom, and both involve agricultural aspects as key components in the reanimation of the dead (in the film, it’s a frequency-emitting machine meant to disturb pests that “re-energizes” parts of corpse’s brains). Heck, they both even share two words in their title, “morgue” and “dead.” I don’t know if, prior to writing his story, Taylor was familiar with Manchester Morgue (a film I have done in-depth analysis on as one of my “top 25” in my book “Reviews of the Dead: 25 Zombie Movies to Die For”), but the similarities don’t stop the novel’s story form being pretty entertaining in its own right. 7/10
O: Original Content – All perceived similarities aside, Taylor has given this tale enough individuality to stand on its own. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of the pesticide as the genesis of the reanimation – I’ve always thought that agricultural aspects would seem a likely cause in the event of a zompocalypse, since the industry deals so heavily with chemicals and compounds in the ground, where most corpses lie. I also enjoyed the small-town setting of the story, as I’ve come across plenty of zombie tales recently that concern themselves with action in bigger cities or on a national/global level. 7/10
R: Realism – My biggest problem in this area was with the characters in the story. While the characters themselves seemed believable enough, their interactions with one another seemed very “forced,” for lack of a better term. Many conversations and situations between characters simply didn’t present as very believable. In addition, many of the characters “talked the same” – they had roughly the same level of vocabulary and no discernible inflections or mannerisms that would help to differentiate to the reader who was actually speaking. These are issues that could be mostly resolved with a strong re-edit of the book, but as things stand now, the experience was particularly jarring and did knock me out of the story’s “groove” more than once. 5/10
E: Effects and Editing – The book is technically well constructed, but reader beware: the author does a little more “telling” than “showing” in this novel. Everything in the tale is explained in the narrative very matter-of-factly, including when the zombies start to attack. Now, don’t get me wrong, the imagery is incredibly effective, it’s just that the style of writing makes things feel very “removed” from the reader’s standpoint. There is a lot of exposition in the tale – over 50 pages go by before the first zombie makes its appearance. I noted what I believed to be some editing issues – commas in the wrong places and the like – but this could be more a byproduct of Taylor writing in (for lack of a better term) British-English instead of the American-English that I’m a little more accustomed to. 5/10
TOTAL SCORE: 6/10
For a self-published work, “Morgue of the Dead” still comes in as an above-average story, and should especially appeal to fans of the classic slow-shambling zombies. Taylor himself has been in contact with me and informed me that the book is receiving an “upgrade” of sorts very soon: it’s getting a slightly-altered cover and some interior images to help accentuate the story, along with a hardcover release in addition to the paperback. It sounds like the author is continuing to listen to feedback to tweak his novel and make the experience better for everyone – a humble trait that more authors should strive to achieve!
And now, my friends, you know the Score!