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Book Review: The Dead Parade by James Roy Daley

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The Dead Parade is author James Roy Daley's first book, which is always interesting to me because I like to see beginning writers and where they go from their first novel. Anyway, Daley's novel deals with both the supernatural and human psychosis. When we join the novel's protagonist James in the story, he has just been informed that his brother and sister-in-law have died, and that his nephew is in a coma, from a terrible car crash. After meeting with his troubled friend Johnny, who admits to doing some pretty serious crimes and then committing suicide, James' life gets even more hectic when he learns that a demon is now following him and killing everything in sight. To make things more complicated, James is slowly turning into a madman, taking hostages and killing a few innocent people himself. In the end, James takes the wrong man hostage. This man is Elmer, who turns out to be a murderer as well, and with a demon and two unwell men running around killing people, you can bet there's a gigantic conflict at hand in this plot.

First thing's first – Daley put a lot on his plate here. Some really gigantic portions. There are many, many plot lines running through the book, some more important than others. However, when a conflict is introduced in a plot, most of the time it needs to be resolved somewhat. This is one of the problems with The Dead Parade. I really liked how intricate he made his story. Subplots abound, and it is great to see so many ideas implemented. With that being said, though, I felt like most of these conflicts were either not resolved or were put on the backburner for too long. Plot points like James' nephew being in a coma seem to be important towards the beginning of the novel but fade out as we move further into the muddle. That's not to say that Daley has done a bad thing by filling his novel with themes and plot – it's just that at some points they feel a little overwhelming and that it might do to cut a few of them.

Daley is very good at writing voices for different characters. One can tell he has thought out what type of personality each of his characters is suited for. But he also has a tendency to switch between characters' thoughts on the fly, and this can get a little confusing during the more action-oriented scenes. Another dilemma I had with Daley's characters was that he had so many characters that it felt like the audience was only presented to them in snippets. I felt like Daley did a great job fleshing out his main characters, and for the most part, their actions were believable. Main protagonist James was even likeable for most of the novel, until he started turning into a lunatic, which made me lose interest in him a little. Yet the less important characters seemed like filler that didn't need to be there. Sometimes, characters seemed to be put in the novel in order to be killed off. We even get a little background of them right before they're killed, which I thought was a little humorous but also unneeded. It is misleading and surprising for the reader, though, that a character we just met is immediately eviscerated.

This takes me to another aspect of The Dead Parade – lack of remorse. When Daley says that "all hell breaks loose," he really means it. Daley has the ability to think up tons of very horrible deaths for his characters, and with the supernatural abilities of the demon, pretty much anything goes. What I really liked even more than the demon was the fact that through almost all of the novel, humans are the scarier monsters. It's a good critique on society, especially when James starts to turn paranoid – Daley does a great job of bringing James' psychosis out and showing how he is starting to snap.

The visceral feel to The Dead Parade, coupled with short cliffhanger-like chapters, creates an intense read. While some of the plot is a little confusing and left unresolved, and most of the tension can be foreseen, Daley has crafted an amusing first story here. Surely it's not a breakout piece, but it is an entertaining, fast read that can be picked up and put down easily enough. The action is engaging, the violence immense (even if a little difficult to believe), and the plot filled to the brim. What Daley brings to the table is a strong start; his writing needs some work, but if Daley continues down this road in horror fiction, he'll start to craft some interesting and original prose. The Dead Parade isn't exactly a fresh concept, but strewn throughout the story are some interesting plot lines that could be expanded on. I, for one, liked Daley's description of James' descent into madness far more than the demonic evil. Sometimes, human terrorism can be worse than anything a fictional monster can wreak, and Daley realized this to a degree in The Dead Parade.

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