Previously on this site, I reviewed author Bracken MacLeod’s first collection of short stories, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods. He’s proven himself to be prolific: his novel Stranded (optioned for a Warner Brothers TV show) was released just last October, and his new novel, Come To Dust, contains a plot that’s quite unexpected.
You see, dead children come back to life. Not all of them, but some of them, and only randomly. It’s never explained — or for that matter, over explained — which I find refreshing. I love it when the audience, be it readers or viewers, aren’t pandered to, and instead are left to their own devices to decipher what’s going on. It’s part of the alchemy of art — you take from it what you will. It’s up for interpretation, and that is the purest magic I know.
But I’ll step away from being flowery or esoteric now. In just a few novels and novellas (not to dismiss years of hard work), MacLeod has proven himself to be a master of the speculative fiction genre with his finely woven tales of life gone wrong. In Come To Dust, Mitch LeRoux is an ex-con charged with guardianship of his niece Sophie when her mother abandons them both. Mitch finds that he makes a great parent against all odds and adores the young child.
However, tragedy strikes the one night that Mitch goes out for a date with a local irreverent beauty named Liana. The next morning, he finds Sophie dead at the hands of her baby-sitter and mother, who’ve both disappeared from town.
If this isn’t bad enough, it seems that dead kids are rising from the proverbial grave all over the place, and no one knows why. With no precedent on how to proceed, the situation sure throws some kinks into homicide investigations! Of course, while one might imagine that this could be a madcap scenario, that’s the furthest from the truth here; every situation is treated with the utmost care. Every deceased child is mourned in the most realistic way I can imagine.
Sophie eventually comes back to Mitch, and it’s a frightening scenario. She’s got those cataract eyes and decaying features. It appears as if her mirth and soul are gone forever — and they probably are. Who doesn’t emerge as the living dead unchanged irreparably?
Enter God’s Warriors and the New Life Church, who are dead set (no pun intended) on bringing about a new world order of sorts. They’ll also happily settle for the end of days. As hypocritical as real-life religious cults and figures, this group doesn’t bat an eye at murder, lying, cover-ups, or anything else that gets in Pastor Roper’s way of whatever he considers to be the “truth.” The dead kids — harmless until antagonized, usually — are the perfect scapegoat for the evangelical outfit secreted away in the woods of rural New Hampshire.
I’ve given away enough plot points, but let me leave you with this: Come To Dust feels like a spiritual companion to Stephen King’s Firestarter, a tale of a man and his very unique daughter being pursued by morally decrepit “authorities.” Take of that what you will. While Come To Dust may not be a perfect book, few are, and there are even fewer that I can recommend — which I do. For an engaging read, you can purchase Come To Dust from Amazon here.