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Yvonne Navarro

ISBN 0-553-56359-9

Bantam Books

US mass Market Paperback Original

351 pages; $5.99

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel (1995) © 2002



Religion and drugs are not a likely combination, but they are combined, and quite effectively, in Yvonne Navarro's "deadrush". The author of the enjoyable vampire epic 'AfterAge' has gone out of her way to invent something that looks like a vampire, acts like a vampire, resurrects its victims like a vampire, but is not, precisely, a vampire. Ranging from the backwoods to the big city, "deadrush" covers a lot of ground and evokes some genuine chills.

Unfortunately, Navarro throws a few too many characters and ideas into 'deadrush'. This dilutes her fascinating concept and detracts from her most interesting characters, who are thrown into the background in favor of more typical horror novel fare. Still, in its best moments, "deadrush" is remarkably effective.

The novel starts out in the backwater town of Harmony, Georgia, with the birth of a boy destined to become a bad seed whether he wishes to or not. At 15, however, Jason Spiro isn't involved in typical 'bad teenager' antics; he's a member of a devout, extreme church of Pentecostal Snake Handlers, who senses unexplored depths within his own mind. In short order, he kills then resurrects himself. His mother's response is to pack him off to his aunt in Chicago, where he'll be forcibly separated from the church his mother hates.

Of course, resurrected teenagers develop unusual appetites, and Jason is no exception. In a series of unnecessary plot twists, Jason resurrects the fifth victim of a serial killer who happens to be stalking the same neighborhood of Chicago where Jason is staying. He resurrects her because he needs to because his own resurrection has created a void within him. And now, she too shares that need.

Navarro is most effective when she is describing the inner state of her resurrected characters, creating truly chilling scenes of terror and dislocation. Unfortunately, the serial killer sub-plot seems superfluous, and the coincidences needed to move it along are on the unbelievable side, even when compared to examinations of the psychological states of the undead. Navarro's characters are a mixed bag as well. After bringing Jason to the big city, she leaves him behind, in the background, and shifts her focus, but never entirely lets him go. Her serial killer is standard issue, while the obligatory policeman investigating the unbelievable is entertaining and well drawn.

This isn't to say that Navarro is a bad writer. She writes a liquor-store-robbery-gone-bad that is gripping and in-your-face real, as is the character who commits the crime. The scenes depicting the addiction of the 'deadrush', and the spiraling despair of those who become 'addicted' are equally well-drawn examples of virtuoso horror writing. But the whole adds up to less than the sum of the parts. 'deadrush' is certainly an enjoyable book to read, with some scenes of well-written terror. It's good enough to make the reader wish it were even better.