By: Brian G. Wood
Tom’s official job title at the Department of Paranormal Study and Defense (DPSD) is Analyst. Analyst is the un-fancy way of describing an action-packed, psychologically taxing, high mortality rate position at a super secret government agency. It’s not an easy job, and on top of it, he’s got a sex-crazed boss, an ex wife, an estranged step child, a (literally) haunted past, and a chainsmoking habit to support. So, he’s got his plate pretty well full enough even before he takes on the job of chaperoning a troublesome demon named Aki trapped inside an eerily docile medium named Keda all around Japan.
The challenge is that Tom is not able to use “chems,” a term which refers mostly to benzodiazepines. Chems are the double-edged sword of Tom’s profession. They keep his psyche protected from things like Aki, but at the price of causing things like Aki to become Objective, or visible and also the stuff of bed-wetting, cardiac event inducing nightmares. Things seem to be going pretty well until Aki manages to get inside of Tom’s unprotected mind and slaps him around a bit with childhood memories of being haunted by a tree in his closet – a tree whose fruit is his mother’s freaking head. Even a horrible night trawling around Japanese night clubs doesn’t seem to shake the memories loose. Clearly, Tom needs a vacation, but it has to wait. Some mysterious disappearances in a town called Orchard require his attention.
The end boss of Dead Roots is a demon named Akebara, the creepy sentient tree from Tom’s childhood made of blood, flesh, and gore. Akebara has taken over Orchard, a horrid backwoods little place at the foothills of the Appalachians where the populace is so naturally weird already that it’s hard to tell who is being haunted and who is just, well, from Orchard. Tom’s partner Artie, Tom, Keda, and a local foul-mouthed cop from Detroit named Heather team up to find and defeat the horror that is Akebara before it takes over the whole town and then who knows what else.
I lack the necessary articulation skills to do justice to the unrelenting gore and humor of the many scenes featuring the mutilated, vomiting victims of this tree. Let’s just say that if you find violent sudden vomiting funny, and you should, then you will enjoy this book. The gore was delectable. Akebara is described in all its creeping, cracking, oozing, veiny horror and its victims are even better. I lost many ounces of weight trying to read this book during my lunch breaks and having to make the painful decision between delicious turkey sandwich and continuing to read Dead Roots. Dead Roots won.
I was introduced to this book by world famous author of In the End, Alexandra Rowland, who assured me that its author, Brian G. Wood, was relatively speaking ridiculously famous. He sells multiples of books per week, she assured me, and he will share with us the mysterious secrets of fame. Naturally, I scooped it right up. After all, once I’ve finally finished writing a book that I’m willing to show the world, I intend to be, erm, famous. Well, I have bad news for you, readers, if you were looking for the same insight as I. There are no tricks here. It’s all just well-organized, superbly imagined, hilarious, charismatic, quality product. Wood has refined his craft. I suspect he may be hiding several hundreds of his earlier works in a locked vault somewhere or perhaps on an Invader Zim fanfic forum. I refuse to accept that this is one of his first. It would be too depressing.
It was hard for me to find something to criticize about this book, but in the interest of objectivity, I feel I owe it to my readers to do something other than fawn all over it like a fan at a Justin Bieber concert. I mean, we’ll leave the discussion of whether criticism is proof of objectivity for another day. You want to know where Wood messed up, don’t you? Some of you are authors. You want to know that there was a really good reason that Wood hasn’t yet been picked up by PenguinHarperCollinsScholasticWhatever because if there isn’t a good reason, the illusion of justice in this world will dissolve before your eyes. You will lose all hope and no longer want to inhabit this planet. Well, tough. There is no good reason. Tom is a bit too archetypal for my tastes, I suppose, given that I’ve read about a hundred male heroes who have smoking habits and strained relationships with hot women and (not hot) kids with whom they wish they could have more time, but it was inoffensive. His character was simply the one recognizable artifact of pop culture in a sea of one hundred percent pure originality. Oh, and there was one scene toward the end of the book that I had to read twice to figure out what was going on. That’s. It.
Because you’re reading my blog, you probably want to know whether this book was woman and queer positive. It was. There are some microaggressions in the beginning, so I didn’t have high hopes, but it turned out the book was remarkably self-aware. The microaggressors learn their lesson. When was the last time you saw something like that outside of an after school special? I don’t even know. It was kind of heart warming actually. Even better, it was brief and not awkward or overly emotional at all. It wasn’t so much an episode of Oprah as a brief little “oh,” and then that’s that. No sitting around and hemming and hawing about what’s gross and who is or isn’t a full human being worthy of equal rights and whose religion is offended right now. Dead Roots would never put you through that. It’s much too nice for all that nonsense.
Still, this was not an easy review to write. It took me several hours longer than expected and I left a very friendly author sweating with anticipation* while I worked out exactly how I could do the job of both telling you how awesome it was and not spoiling a single mystery about the book. For example: I can’t tell you about my favorite character, Creeping Wind. Sorry. You’ll just have to shell out three to twelve bucks.
Go buy Dead Roots. It can be found on Amazon for $2.99 kindle, $12.99 paperback alongside its sequel, Blood Mother.
*lol just kidding my reviews aren’t that exciting