Since I am always looking for a new author to read and (hopefully) enjoy, I was happy to get a copy of “The Reluctant Dead” by Nuzo Onoh. Not only is this author new to me, but Onoh is also an African author and that continent is sorely underrepresented in the amount of fiction released in the United States. There is no way I could resist this book of supernatural stories.
“The Reluctant Dead” is a collection of short stories that feature the supernatural in an African setting and drawing heavily on West African mythology and folklore. As the title suggests, the stories focus on ghosts and what happens when those who are supposed to have passed on are not ready to let go. The stories in this collection are sure to scare the reader as well as make the reader think about life and the world in general. This is a collection of longer stories and thus collects only six short stories while still being a substantial collection.
The book opens with “The Follower” which is the story of a young man who takes a job in the morgue. He is given a set of rules by an older coworker but he does not take them seriously. After all, why should he have to knock before he enters the room when the room is filled with corpses. Believing the “rules” to be nothing more than superstition, he fails to follow them and soon finds himself with a remnant of the dead attached to him. This story is a very good ghost story as well as an exposition on the need for respect for those around you. This was my favorite story in the collection, which is generally a letdown, but that doesn’t mean that the other stories were bad.
That is just the first story and the remaining five stay in that same vein. Some of the stories seemed to be almost written in what many readers in the United States may see as an old fashioned manner due to the subject matter that is different from what one would find in prevalent culture in the U.S. The story of a boy who returns to his boarding school after his death to attempt to finish his education would be an example of this. Since boarding schools are not very common in the U.S., I found myself reminiscing to stories that were written many years ago and featured a similar setting. Even these stories, though, did not feel dated in their development and execution. Other stories, like the tale of a wronged ex-wife returning from the grave seeking revenge, seemed right up to the moment and was a very compelling read.
I am not sure if this collection will be for everyone as it does have a different feel to it than most mainstream horror. That is not to say that the collection does not deserve to be read by a wide audience, just that it is a little different than the norm and that often can keep some readers from taking a leap and picking up a book. I would recommend this book to anyone, though, not just fans of the horror genre. “The Reluctant Dead” is a smartly written book with stories that will not only scare the reader but also make the reader think. I really enjoyed this collection and think that others will too as long as they give it a chance. Some of the imagery and mythology behind the stories will be foreign to many readers but this book still delves into universal themes that will entertain and terrify at the same time while exposing the reader to something new. If you like you fiction to be smart and scary, this is definitely the book for you. If you are a fan of good fiction, then this is the book for you. I cannot wait to see what Onoh has in store for readers in the future.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Cameron Publicity and Marketing Ltd. for this review copy. “The Reluctant Dead” is available now.