Oct 02

Print this Post

Becca Smith’s Riser: Zombies as They Really Are

Riser is the first of the Riser Saga by Becca C. Smith, a series that includes also Reaper and Ripper.  It has about 4 1/2 stars at Amazon, and I’m not sure I’d rate it that high.  As a matter of fact, I’m not sure how many stars I would give it at all.  It is billed as teen horror and science fiction, which sounded interesting enough, but I didn’t think it scary at all, and the science-fiction aspect was on the mild side.

It relives a short period in the life of Chelsan, a seemingly ordinary high school girl.  I say, “seemingly,” because she had found out at an early age that she could raise the dead.  Not return them to life; they’re still dead.  But she can animate them and keep them from decaying.  In a future world where some of the beliefs of voodoo have found scientific substantiation, her power and grisly secrets from her family’s past lead her and her friends into deadly trouble.

Overall, the book has some pluses and minuses.  I like to get the negatives out of the way first, so let’s do that.

RiserIt was slow getting started.  It was at about 20% into the book (the big trailer park incident, if you’ve read it) where I finally thought, “OK.  Now I’m getting hooked.”  That’s a bit long to wait.  I kept going up til that point because the overall story idea was intriguing, but lots of people would have given up by that time.  However,  it wasn’t as slow as the next book I read, which didn’t get going until 30% through.  I’ve been complimented on my perseverance.

Then, too, there was a bit of deus ex machina threading through the plot.  It starts when Chelsan is cornered in a lethal situation at school.  Death is inches away, and she suddenly (no one knows how) took control and saved herself.  This “somehow” or never-tried-before power pops up to rescue her, I think, seven times.  I lost cost.  It was fishy enough be uncomfortable.  There are two places in The Lastchild where I wonder if I failed to adequately foreshadow or explain something the reader needed to know, and that makes me even more uncomfortable.

On the other hand, the story has great potential and I can see people falling in love with the book despite those two issues above.  The plot has a good portion of twists and turns.  You know, the moments when you gasp, “Oh, my God!.”  And it is convoluted enough for there to be plenty of these moments.  If you like them, it’s well worth the read.

Or if you like tension.  Time and again she is pursued by powers who want her dead, and are quite willing to let that death be horrifying.  There is sheer evil darker and more perverse that you may expect to see in a teen novel, and it seems always right at her heels but also one step ahead.  I take the cover image to be the vortex of death.  You’ll find out what that’s about.

But the one thing that sticks in my mind far above the others is that Smith wrote real zombies.  Those things we normally call zombies, from which we anticipate a coming apocalypse, those dead things that crawl out of their graves to consume human flesh, are nothing of the sort.  I don’t know what they are, but I think calling them zombies started with Night of the Living Dead, and it somehow stuck.

No, what zombies are are dead bodies animated by a voodoo priest or witch to do their bidding.  And that is what they are in Riser.  Not once do they try to eat someone.  They may look perfectly normal, where no one can tell they’re dead except for people with the power, like Chelsan.  Who knows?  People all around you, your friends, your coworkers — even your husband — might be dead, acting out the will of someone else perhaps miles away.

This is a premise that promises to give you the creeps, and there is a fair share of creepiness in Riser.  Some parts are probably not suitable for children.  Smith concluded this story satisfactorily, yet left the ending open for more to come, and that’s clearly a plus mark.  She started with a great idea and gives us a good introduction to the world that develops from it.  Overall, a positive experience that left an imprint.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.duanevore.com/becca-c-smiths-riser-zombies-as-they-really-are/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>