Review: Come to Dust by Bracken MacLeod

Come to Dust
By Bracken MacLeod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In his afterword, Bracken MacLeod notes that the scariest parts of this book came by imagining the absence of his son in his life, and I would agree that those are, truly, the most horrifying aspects of this book. When I began reading Come to Dust this past Sunday, I was quickly turned into a devastated, quivering wreck. Since becoming a parent, I do not believe I have ever felt so exposed and afraid by the infinite unknown and the potential for life's terror. Mortality has never felt so real as it has since my son came along, and I have absolutely no idea how I would cope with losing him.

MacLeod has tapped into a very primal fear here, what is easily every parent's worst nightmare, and brought it home in a damningly effective way. Although Come to Dust is dark, at times despairingly so, there is a beacon of light at its core. It's about loss, but also rebirth and the hope of second chances in the face of overwhelming odds.

Mitch is a parent who has lost his daughter, at least until she comes back from the dead. Some may classify this as a zombie novel, and while I certainly enjoy my share of the undead I would not be quite so hasty in affixing that label here. Come to Dust is not of the EAT BRAINS! MORE BRAINS! vein, but it does it have its fair share of supernatural conceits and MacLeod does a fine job of exploring the societal repercussions of what happens when dead children mysteriously return to the world of the living. This world of "deadophiles" and religious nuts is filtered to us through Mitch, an every-man who, as an ex-convict, has his own share of his problems in the aftermath of Sophie's demise and resurrection.

I really liked the understated approach MacLeod took to the material here. This sucker could have gone off the rails at any number of junctures, but he's got a strong authorial command of the material and never lets it get the better of him. This could have been yet another dime-a-dozen zombie apocalypse story, but MacLeod opts for the softer approach, avoiding spectacle in favor of heart, focusing fully on emotional resonance rather than gory fun. I usually read horror for escapist entertainment, so this book took me completely by surprise in some of the best, heart-wrenchingly real ways. Come to Dust was a highly emotional read for me, one that left me worn out and fraught on more than one occasion, and MacLeod does not pull any of his punches.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from publisher.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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