Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia

One of the things I enjoy most about my local library is how they prominently display new books by authors known and unknown alike. There is no favoritism (that I can tell) and the only categorization new titles are given is by genre. One of my personal favorites, and if you’ve been paying attention to the kinds of books reviewed here, is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Perusing the new titles on that rather large display is how I came about finding this week’s book.

Dead Boys tells the tale of Jacob Campbell, who is dead. Jacob is a preservationist, an individual who provides his clients a kind of taxidermy – staving off the effects of entropy and keeping them looking as lifelike as possible for as long as possible. However when the chance to meet the Living Man; a man who supposedly cheated death and crossed over in to the Land of the Dead without actually dying; arises, Jacob leaves his home and his fortune behind.

Legend says the Living Man met his end somewhere beneath the streets of Dead City and Jacob is on a mission to find the man and the truth. Along the way Jacob is joined by Remington; an innocent with unique powers over the bones of the dead, a pair of headless corpses named Adam and Eve, and Leopold L’Eclair; a hanged rogue with criminal ambitions that draw the wrong kind of attention. The three travel from the labyrinth beneath Dead City to the Plains of War and beyond to White City in their quest for the Living Man and the truth behind the legend.

On both Amazon and Good Reads, Dead Boys gets mixed reviews. Some truly enjoyed it and give it high praise while others were unable to get in to the story and therefore gave it low marks. I find myself somewhere in the middle. While the premise itself was very interesting, and is what drew me to reading this in the first place, the execution (pardon the pun) was less than stellar – in my opinion. The world of the dead was well fleshed out (again, pardon the pun) but I thought more effort could have been given to the characters themselves.

We, the reader, are swept along in the journey of Jacob et al and are with them as they change and grow; but the question of ‘Why?’ is never really answered. Why did Jacob want to find the Living Man in the first place? Why did Remington commit suicide and where exactly did his powers come from? Who were Adam and Eve originally? We are given brief glimpses of answers and are left to our own devices to answer the rest. Personally, I would have liked something a little more concrete.

For a first book, Dead Boys shows a lot of promise. Squailia has a talent for creating a new world from an old one and introducing new characters to bring us along on the ride. Should he continue in this vein and continue to grow better with subsequent novels, I believe he has the potential to be something great. He is a new author to keep ones eyes on.

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