Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner
“This place has always been ruled by the vampire lords. Now they are plotting to destroy the city. Over my dead body”.
For the second entry in Zombie Appreciation Month we move away from the end of the world toward a detective novel with a twist. I’m sure you can guess the nature of the twist? Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner is the first outing for the zombie detective.
Hundreds of years ago, Father Dis and the five lesser Dark Lords brought all of the Darkfolk together. To avoid continued persecution by humans they left Earth and travelled to an alternate dimension where Father Dis created Nekropolis. The city is split into five different dominions with one of the lords in charge of each. In Nekropolis you’ll find vampires, lykes (shapeshifters), demons, witches and warlocks, the undead and everything in-between.
Matt Richter is an ex-cop from Cleveland who stumbled into Nekropolis during the course of an investigation. While there he died but has since been reanimated as the city’s only self-willed zombie. Unable to return to Earth due to his undead state, he does favours for people in return for dark gems. He uses the dark gems to pay for the preservative spells he needs to stay in one piece. Unlike a Romero flavoured brain eating zombie, Matt is a creature of voodoo and magic.
I loved the idea that, unlike all the other supernatural denizens of the city, zombies haven’t got very many inherent powers. They are no stronger than when they were human and though they don’t feel pain they can be quite easily damaged. What they do have however, is incredible powers of concentration and patience, which if you are a detective can only be a good thing. Thinking about other zombie novels they do seem to very single minded and determined so this seems like a nice reworking of that aspect of their nature.
The story that unfolds is, at its core, quite simple. A powerful artefact called the Dawnstone has been stolen from Galm, the Lord of the vampires. Matt is hired by Devona, the vampire Lord’s daughter, to return it. Take away the zombies and vampires and it probably does not differ greatly from many other detective novels. Where Nekropolis stands out is that the author has obviously spent a great deal of time creating a fully fleshed out universe.
The city seems very real and vibrant. Some fantastic sounding characters are mentioned in passing. Hopefully we’ll see more of these in the future. The Suicide King, the Jade Enigma, Antwerp the Psychotic Clown, Slitheria the Serpent Goddess. All very evocative sounding and suggesting further mystery that requires investigation.
Nekropolis reminds me in some ways of the the Nightside novels by Simon R Green. Like Nightside, the city of Nekropolis is itself as much a character as anyone else in the novel. There are some great touches. In a place where anything is possible it seems only logical there would be a vampire cowboy bar, a French restaurant run by giant snails and a brothel whose Madam is also a Mister. I can die happy knowing that someone has created a chihuahua/piranha cross – the chiranaha.
Nekropolis has been out in the UK since 2009 so the good news is that there is already a sequel available, Dead Streets. Based on how much I enjoyed Nekropolis I’ll be checking it out.
I’m sure that there are zombie purists out there who would dismiss the idea of self willed and highly sentient undead, but if zombie detective fiction sounds like your kind of thing there are some other fine examples. I,Zombie by Al Ewing and Dead America by Luke Keioskie are also currently available and worthy of your attention.