Do you ever worry that you will wake up one morning and discover zombies walking the streets, and you won’t be sure how to survive, where to go, or how to save the world from them? Yeah, neither do I. Not often, anyway. But that’s the situation in which characters find themselves in the book I’m reviewing today: Soulless by Christopher Golden.
The story of Soulless begins in a television studio, where three psychics are gathering to bridge a new connection with the spirit world. If the plan succeeds, ghosts will be able to cross into the living world and communicate directly to their loved ones. Of course, the seance quickly goes awry, with the spirits returning to their own dead bodies and climbing out their graves.
Zombies are an idea that have been done over and over again, especially in recent years, but Christopher Golden includes enough twists on the concept to make Soulless worth reading. The origin and behaviour of his zombies differ from the undead of other stories, yet they make sense and remain consistent with the internal logic of the novel. I don’t want to explain everything because one of the best parts of the book for me was finding out how the zombies behave and why, but needless to say, I haven’t seen another story or film that uses zombies in quite the same, interesting way. In addition, zombies are not the only enemy in Soulless; the novel also explores the horrors that regular humans can do in terrible circumstances.
I have read several books by Christopher Golden and one of his greatest strengths as a writer is his use of characters. He has written many tie-in books for films and television shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular. Many people might not consider those kinds of books artistic, but he always elevates the material because he portrays characters accurately and fully. In his own original books, he takes the same care, creating characters who are diverse and complex. One of the joys of reading Soulless was watching the eclectic cast of characters come together in an attempt to stop the zombies.
Some gore is expected when dealing with the genre of Soulless, and people who don’t like it should still beware. That said, Golden never uses gore excessively, but rather saves it for when it is most effective or important.
I should also mention that the novel is considered a young adult book. I don’t believe that the young adult label is a completely negative one and there are plenty of books meant for that audience that I enjoy. However, I don’t think anything in Soulless really limits it to a younger age group. The plot seemingly focuses on a lot of young people, but the questions that arise from the situation are relevant to people of all ages. I recommend this to anyone who likes horror fiction, regardless of age.
I give Soulless a 4.5 out of 5. The book will never be considered high literature, but Golden takes the genre and raises it to a new level, using the undead to explore the morality of the living and creating a very entertaining story in the process.