lunes, 27 de febrero de 2012

Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

If you think that "charming, intelligent zombie" is an oxymoron, then you definitely need to read Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory. Because John 'Stony' Mayhall is completely charming, exceptionally intelligent and, well, totally undead.

I'm not usually attracted to zombie stories. I find them trite and boring. However, I'd been intrigued by Raising Stony Mayhall for quite a long while. It didn't seem to be your average living dead novel. So when my friend Miquel Codony began speaking highly of it I thought I should give it a try. It turned out to be an excellent recommendation (thanks, Miquel).

On a cold winter's night, Wanda Mayhall finds the body a young girl lying on the snow. She had died trying to keep her newborn baby warm. Unfortunately, her sacrifice wasn't enough to save the child... or was it? The baby doesn't breathe and his heart is not beating. But, suddenly, he moves. He is a living dead, one of the "monsters" from the recent zombie outbreak... Against all reason, Wanda decides to secretly adopt the baby and raise him as he was his own son.

With a deceptively simple prose, Gregory tells the moving story of the Mayhall family, of how Stony grows, learns and evolves, always wondering why he is different, why he is special. The great mystery of Stony's existence (how can he grow, how can he even be alive?) will take us to explore the meaning of love, the meaning of being human, the meaning of life.

Raising Stony Mayhall is a pleasure to read. The dialog is witty, sharp and funny but also has many deep and profound moments. The characters are just lovely. You'll empathize with Stony from the very beginning, and the cast of secondary characters has to be one the most remarkable in a novel ever: the Mayhalls, Delia, Mr. Blunt, the Lump, Commander Calhoun... all of them are three-dimensional and fully fleshed out, especially the zombies (no pun intended). The plot twists are mostly unexpected and their timing is perfect.

But the strongest point of the novel is its astounding variety. In Raising Stony Mayhall we can find a coming of age story, a homage to The Shawshank Redemption, quotes from an imaginary pulp novel featuring a zombie P.I. and a scene that could have been taken from Kill Bill, among other things. Gregory manages to wrap all this together seamlessly, with the ability of a master storyteller. As the Lump says, 'Integrity is all.'

Even if you don't like zombie stories, do yourself a favor and read Raising Stony Mayhall. You'll love it. And if you shed a tear of two by the end of the book, don't feel ashamed. My eyes were a bit wet, too.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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