Nekropolis is a city that never sleeps, and thankfully Matthew Richter, a zombie private investigator with a soul, doesn’t have to sleep either, enabling him to get himself embroiled in whatever new catastrophe has reared its ugly head. After the events that took place in Nekropolis, Dead Streets opens with Richter and his girlfriend, the half-human, half-vampire Devona, now running a private investigation bureau called The Midnight Watch. After stopping a bounty hunter named Overkill from stealing a banshee rock star’s voice, Richter and company think they’ll have a little downtime before the next job comes knocking; that is, until Matthew loses his body. Now just a sentient head, Matt and Devona go on a wild chase through the streets of Nekropolis looking for his body, enlisting the aid of mad scientist Victor Baron, and attempting to survive in Tenebrus, Nekropolis’s answer to a maximum security prison. Unbeknownst to Matthew and company however is there are some dark workings behind his body snatching, one that’s going to cause them even more problems than ever before.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first entry in Tim Waggoner’s Nekropolis series, and I’m very happy to report that the follow-up, Dead Streets, is just as entertaining as its predecessor. If you thought you’d already seen everything this bizarre universe of iniquities had to offer in the first book, think again. There’s all sorts of dark corners left to explore, and Waggoner takes us to some of the shadiest nooks and crannies of Nekropolis in Dead Streets, including a private collection of wonders and curiosities (the location of which is other-worldly), a fantasy world ripped straight out of your worst Leave It To Beaver nightmare, and a lengthy tour of the aforementioned Tenebrus, a place that won’t ever let you die, even if the flesh has rotted from your bones. Along with all of these imaginative locales comes all sorts of monstrosities with a twist, such as a Gorgon television reporter, a bounty hunting hot rod with a soul, and a lycanthropic Godzilla, not to mention all of Matthew’s wild gadgets that Bond could only dream about, the coolest possibly being a sleeping salamander that can be awakened and used as a lighter. Waggoner clearly has a ton of wild ideas swimming around in that brain of his, and he’s without a doubt created a world wondrous enough to inject them all into the narrative without you thinking he’s batshit crazy and should be institutionalized (and who knows, maybe he is; us readers are certainly the better for it!)
Maybe my memory is a little foggy, but one thing that seems more pronounced in Dead Streets than in Nekropolis are the numerous nods to horror, fantasy, and sci-fi film and literature. A few off the top of my head that I loved were characters named Burke and Hare (working for Victor Baron, appropriately), a book store named Nosferatomes, and my favorite being a Japanese restaurant named Matango whose slogan is “You are what you eat”. It’s fairly obvious Waggoner is just as big a fan of cult entertainment as the rest of us, and it’s always great when someone that truly “gets it” can provide fellow fans with equally thrilling entertainment. There’s little to knock here; if you enjoyed the first book, there’s no reason not to pick up Dead Streets, as its every bit as good, maybe even a tad better since the establishing of the world has already been done and now we can really dig into something a bit more personal. Matthew and Devona’s relationship is a big part of this story, and because of that you’ll care just as much for them by the last page as you are enthralled with the sprawling world of Nekropolis. Waggoner is without a doubt proving he can hang with all of the hybrid horror/noir heavyweights that are out there with ease. Big thumbs up!
It’s also worth nothing the book comes with a bonus story entitled “The Midnight Watch”, which tells the tale of Matthew and Devona picking the property where their private investigation business will be housed. It’s nowhere near as good as the actual novel, but it does shed some light on a peculiar story point therein, and you can’t really complain too much about free goodies.
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