Book Review-Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner
Maybe it’s because as a kid I spent my Saturday nights watching Stacy Keach play Mike Hammer on CBS, but I love private detectives. They’re my favorite form of literary heroes. They dish out and endure all sorts of punishment in their quest for the truth. The cover for Tim Waggoner’s novel “Nekropolis” hinted that readers would meet a private eye capable of enduring a lot of punishment. That’s because he was a zombie, but unlike your typical zombie he had his full cognitive capablities and didn’t possess a craving for brains.
Waggoner’s protagonist is a fairly likeable guy named Matt Richter, a former cop from Cleveland. One night Matt and his partner followed a strange killer through a mysterious portal and became trapped in the other dimensional city of Nekropolis. In their final confrontation with the killer, Matt’s partner was murdered and accident happened that transformed him into an intelligent zombie. He decided to use his skills to become a sort of unofficial P.I. Instead of doing jobs. He does “favors” His cunning mind, undead physical form, and the numerous mystical tools he keeps in the pockets of his trench coat make him pretty good at his job. Matt’s first two traits are quite interesting. The second one though just felt a little too convenient and super hero like. Matt’s trenchcoat is pretty much just like Batman’s utility belt.
Matt’s abilities and tools help him with his job, but what really makes him an interesting character is his genuine desire to do good. In spite of all he’s seen in the monstrous city of “Nekropolis” he’s not a cynical character. He doesn’t believe what he’s doing is futile and continues to try regardless of the odds. That makes him a refreshing and interesting character. He broods a little bit, but doesn’t really wine or complain.
In “Nekropolis” Matt is approached by Devona, the daughter of the city’s vampire overlord. She needs him to do the favor of finding a stolen mystical artifact before her temperamental father finds out. Matt takes the case and he Devona’s investigation takes them across the entire city of Nekropolis, which is a pretty interesting town.
Imagine one city that’s a combination of the different horror theme realms of Ravenloft from “Dungeons and Dragons,” Halloweentown from the “Nightmare Before Christmas,” and the crazy afterlife of “Beetlejuice.” That’s Nekropolis. It’s populated by horrific technology that’s a mirror reflection of our own. It is also home to monsters, demons, magicians, and all around strange characters. The city itself is broken down into boroughs each controlled by a particularly powerful dark lord. For example, a shapeshifting darklord rules over a borough populated by were beasts, and a vampirc dark lord rules a neighborhood of blood suckers. These dark lords commit all sorts of intrigues against each other, but every year the must cooperate in a ceremony that keeps the city from being destroyed.
So the setting of “Nekropolis” was pretty damn interesting, but for some reason the book just didn’t click with me. I don’t know if the setting was too weird or alien, the pacing was off or if the book just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. There were times when I felt my patience and attention wearing thin.
I stuck with “Nekropolis” though and I’m glad I did. By the end of the book Waggoner ultimately won me back over. What did it were his two main characters of Matt and Devona. In many thrillers with a male and female character they often fall in love and fall in bed together. It’s usually a very contrived plot development. In “Nekropolis” Matt and Devona do develop feelings for each other, but in a unique and organic way. I bought it. It felt sweet and true, and it kept me reading.
So I found “Nekropolis” to be a bumpy, but ultimately satisfying journey. It had a solid and likeable main character who developed a relationship with another character that felt interesting, poignant, and very real. So because of that I’m definitely interested in seeing what Waggoner does with his second Matt Richter novel, “Dead Streets.”