Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth by James Dorr

Tombs_Cover
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It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what—ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths. Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection. Tombs is a beautifully written examination of the human condition of life, love, and death, through the prism of a dystopian apocalypse.

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The book is compiled of what we could say are short stories, which are divided into chapter like form. The stories are set in a postapocalyptic time where humanity as we know it does not exist anymore and the few humans that did manage to get this far are either ill or mutated.

The beginning of the book did not do a good job of describing of what we are heading into. Yes, we learn about how this all started in as few details as possible, but then at the start of the first story, we, again, receive little details on the scenery. We do not get long descriptive paragraphs of where the story is unfolding and we do not get any descriptions of how the creatures that now roam the Earth actually look like. This is an important thing that we should know, especially in a postapocalyptic dystopian universe. And we need to know it right off the bat. Not to mention that it is supposed to be a horror story too. If we are to fear the creatures we need a reason to fear them, not because the book tells us so.

Some of the characters are too plain. We do not learn any solid background about them and, for example, while we do get a sneak peek in Towli’s head (I am using him as an example, there are many more other characters, not just him), there is basically no real thought processes going on. He does not have any capacity of real thoughts and whether or not it was meant to be this way, it does not appeal to me as a reader, to be excluded from that also, apart from the descriptions I have already mentioned.

The stories are okay, but then again, some are just very plain. There is just no depth to some of them, no bigger meaning. One could argue that they have questionable content or are rather graphic, but that does not cut it for me. I believe that is what is expected in horror genre. And some do not even have that. Reading through some of them just made me regret it as I felt like I am wasting my time. Some characters come and go, some of them die, and even though I have read a 50 page long story with that character included, I do not feel any grief regarding their death.

What I consider the best thing about the book is the structure. We get a certain view in one of the stories and then in the next one it switches the view, in order for us to view it from the other perspective. I believe that is done really well and at the end, makes us think about how it the world looks like from the eyes of another.

I believe these stories need to be featured in a bigger world that is greatly described. So that it actually makes us think about this kind of future, if it were to happen. And makes us fear it. A dystopian fiction should also offer a fresh perspective on the issue at hand (in this case, the sun expanding), but apart from the aftermath, I was not offered any of that.

Book recommendation: 6/10

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