Several months ago, Thom Everett was the victim of an experiment funded by Phoenix Industries that they hoped would give them control over an army of the dead, but things went a bit haywire and Thom escaped with the help of a mercenary team that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That doesn’t mean Phoenix has given up yet though, not only are they hard at work creating a fresh batch of zombies, but the escaped and now protected Thom has developed the powers Phoenix hoped for, and they want him back.
I’m sure author Dave Jeffery isn’t aware of this, but to the undead, Necromancer is quite the insult in that we aren’t the biggest fan of those that control the dead. We consider them little more than glorified slave owners with a flair for the dramatic, what with their usual penchant for dressing up in gaudy robes, invoking spells from forgotten languages (usually gibberish they made up on spot), and using talismans that look like they were dropped from the backpack of a World of Warcraft LARPer. It’s not uncommon to hear one zombie tell another zombie to stop being such a necromancer in the same way you might tell someone to stop being such an asshole. I already know what you’re saying, “Why’d you even bother reading it then? Wouldn’t the title of the book kind of read Necropolis Rising 2: Asshole to you?” Very good point imaginary voice in my head asking me questions while I write this, but I have a counterpoint for you. Don’t a lot of people still watch and enjoy Gone with the Wind and isn’t that a movie that puts a nice, nostalgic spin on pre-Civil War southern plantations? If humans can enjoy watching slaveholders of the living, why can’t I enjoy watching slave holders of the dead. Sure, it might be a bad comparison in that Gone with the Wind is one of the most boring movies I’ve ever seen and Necropolis Rising 2: Necromancer was an exciting read, but I still hold my ground, unlike the South.
Let me give you a bit of backstory here for those jumping into book two without reading book one (and shame on you book skipping person). A few months from the sequel’s start, Phoenix Industries began a project called the Lazarus Initiative that was intended to not only create an army of the dead, but give them the power to control that army as well. Things didn’t go quite as intended, and though the Lazarus Initiative was a success both in the creation of zombies and a necromancer to control them, an entire city ended up being firebombed to control the zombie’s spread before it could get out of control, and the necromancer, a naïve young man named Thom Everett, was rescued by the two survivors of a mercenary team that had found themselves caught up in the chaos. Those two survivors, Susan Hank and Gaz Clarke, took Thom to a hidden refuge in the hopes that Phoenix Industries would be unable to recreate their experiments, experiments that only succeeded due to Thom’s unique biology, but they’ve underestimated the lengths the company will go to in order to get what they want. Phoenix has set up shop on a converted cargo ship, and they’ve got a hold full of unfortunate souls that have become test subjects, zombies recreated from the same formula invented by the late Dr. Whittington. Not only do they have the good doctor’s formula, but they’ve got his daughter as well, a doctor nearly as brilliant as her late father, and just as dedicated to the research as well. While Thom and his protectors hunker down, hoping against hope that they won’t be found, Phoenix has discovered that Thom has a sister, a sister that Thom was unaware of and who may be able to become a necromancer as well. Phoenix Industries thinks they’re only a short time away from reaching their goals, but what they don’t know is that Thom can hear the zombies they’ve recreated, and they’re calling out to one they feel is their savior.
The great things about Necropolis Rising 2 is that you don’t necessarily have to have read the first one to enjoy its sequel. It’s fully possible to jump right in to Necromancer and still enjoy the story, though it’s not something I’d recommend as there will be parts that won’t make complete sense without having read the backstory. In fact, that’s almost the feeling I have after reading Necropolis Rising 2, that it’s the true beginning of something I hope continues with at least a few more chapters, while Necropolis Rising is more of an introduction to what author Dave Jeffery is getting ready to unload on the reader. That’s not to say that the first book isn’t good or worth giving a read, it’s a great book in its own right and I enjoyed reading it, simply that the second installment felt like it was where things really took off, fully fleshing out a story and characters that we were introduced to in the first book. Having read the first one definitely makes certain aspects much easier to understand, of that there’s no doubt and I would recommend checking it out just as much as I would this one, but you can get by without having giving it a go. Understand, this isn’t a knock on the author, but rather a compliment in that it’s a rare thing to see a series where the second book can stand on its own without requiring one to have read the previous installment.
One of the things that impressed me so much in the first book was Jeffery’s ability to describe so much using so little, in other words, he’s able to fully describe a scene, a person, or emotion without having to go into a ton of detail. It was something extremely necessary for the first Necropolis Rising in that it was a much shorter book, coming in at only a hundred and forty pages or so, and needed that level of descriptive mastership to put as much detail as needed for a short read. He carries that ability over to his second instalment as well. With the longer length he could have easily spent more time describing things but instead kept it shorter with the descriptions and allowed much more substance over the course of the novel. That’s not to say that he leaves things up to the reader to figure out, quite the contrary actually, he describes everything he needs to in such a way that you will be able to see exactly what he was writing about, but he doesn’t seem to need a whole lot of words to do it, rather choosing the best descriptive language with only a few well-chosen words. I adored it as this let me focus on the overall story, the twists and turns Jeffery takes us down, without having to spend a ton of time on every little detail about a vehicle, a place, or a person. Nowhere is this more evident than in the little bits about the lives of some of the minor characters we’re introduced to, the ones who won’t have a huge impact on the overall story, but still help to lead the story to where it’s heading. Many of these people will still have a small section, usually no more than a page of two, about where they come from, who they are, and what’s lead them to find themselves in the current situation. In only a scant few paragraphs we’re told everything we need to know and come away with a better understanding of who they are without having to spend too much time delving into their entire history. I have to admit to at first finding these little bits slightly annoying and asking myself why I was supposed to care about these minor players, but there is a method behind this madness in that you come to see all of these people as real parts of the story, not just minor characters thrown in there so someone had a person to shoot or a zombie to control. It showed how these people were all important in one way or another, and thanks to his way of being able to describe so much with so little, these backstories aren’t something that takes the reader out of the story but further draws them in.
Jeffery’s talent comes into play with the major characters as well in that he is able to flesh them out into tangible beings that one starts to feel as if they know, maybe not these exact people, but people very much like them. They have their passions and fears, their individual quirks, and a full range of emotion that keeps them from being fodder for the story’s gory bits (more on this in a second). You can almost feel what they feel as you read through their struggles. It was an amazing example of characterization done right, and I applaud the amount of effort that I’m sure went into their creation. Even the ones you’ll find yourself hating are still written in such a way that they aren’t cartoonish villains one can easily throw into the “evil bad guys” pile while anticipating their end, but people who are either so engrossed with what they’re doing that they can’t see the damage caused, people that have been tainted by their past to a degree it effects how they deal with their present, or people who believe in a goal so strongly that any sacrifice is necessary, even if that goal is only a larger payday. As an example, there is one character, a certain security guard who seems to have “power hungry dipshit” written on his forehead, but when you come to see where he’s been, what his childhood was like, you understand that there’s a reason as to why he is the way he’s become. He’s still an asshole mind you, but in understanding why he’s an asshole the character becomes a little more humanized than a simple villain. Another testament to the author’s talent.
Now, of course there’s going to be something that the zombie fan is going to care about besides the characters or the story, the gore. You can expect plenty of it in Necropolis Rising 2. The zombies are given gory life in their descriptions, and when an unfortunate soul or two (or twenty) meets his fate in the mouth of a starving ghoul, his or her demise is fully fleshed out (no pun intended). I might even have found myself wincing a time or two.
Necropolis Rising 2: Necromancer is a great novel, and I can’t wait for the next chapter in the series. While I’ve already stated it’s not a requirement that you read the book that started it all, I would still recommend it. You won’t be disappointed in either.
The Undead Review
Published By: Severed Press
Written By: Dave Jeffery
Rotten Heads: Four and a Half Heads Out of Five
You can find it here: Amazon: Necropolis Rising 2 Necromancer