WILLIAM TODD ROSE
'The Realms Of The Dead'
Working somewhere between horror and speculative fiction, 'The Realms Of the Dead' sees the pairing of two novellas by author William Todd Rose. The first, 'Crossfades', introduces Chuck Grainger, a Recon and Enforcement Technician who guides tormented spirits into the next life on behalf of a shadowy secret organisation called The Institute. The novella is a punchy and fairly fast paced exploration of dystopian fiction with horror elements – think Philip K Dick collaborating with Stephen King, and you'll get the gist of this universe.
With an emphasis on astral projection, nightmarish dimensions, the afterlife and evil the book feels more horror than sci-fi a lot of the time, and that's fine. The narrative is heavily focussed on Grainger and his task of helping souls stuck between life and death in so-called “crossfades”. His job takes a sinister twist as he discovers a force set on coming after him.
As a novella, 'Crossfades' doesn't have a lot of room to develop the background world and add a great deal of scope to the workings of its universe. Instead the plot keeps itself fairly straightforward and even when metaphysical subjects come up it doesn't dwell on them. Therefore it is quite an easy read that can be easily picked up and consumed in little time.
The writing style is again reminiscent of the likes of Stephen King – while it is not a grand exercise in literature it is accessible, intriguing and a solid story that comes to an enjoyable conclusion.
The second novella in this volume is 'Bleedovers'. Having overcome the evil force of the first volume this stand-a-lone, but related story sees Grainger face a different challenge.
The first novel saw the main action set in the spiritual world where the supernatural horror element was incredibly lurid and tense. This second story sees this horror bleeding over into reality as the evil that faced Grainger attempts to get revenge and threatening to unleash unimaginable terrors on the real world.
The subject matter is broadly the same with similar metaphysical themes running throughout. There is more of a psychic element to this story due to the character of Marilee Williams who joins Grainger in attempting to destroy this evil once and for all. And we do get to see a little bit more of The Institute and the world in which the characters inhabit.
When combined these two novellas make for a light, graphic and easy read. It is fairly logical in its premise and would very easily transpose into a TV mini series with ease. As a work of fiction it is unlikely to make a huge overall impression, but it is entertaining and well paced. It would be nice to see Rose develop this world further, perhaps in a full-length novel that delves more into the wider context of the characters world.