I was fortunate enough to be asked by a wonderful blogger, Little Willow, to participate in a blog tour for Thomas Randall's book, The Waking: Dreams of the Dead! Read on to discover more about this intriguing paranormal horror story and about the fascinating author. :)
Tags: MG, YA, paranormal, horror, vampires, murder, deaths, Japan
Rating: 3 out of 5
Kara and her father are spending her junior year of high school at a prestigious private high school in Japan. Moving to Japan had been something they’d worked for since even before Kara’s mom died in a car accident, but Japan is not all that she expected. The Japanese customs are difficult to remember, even when Kara constantly reminds herself of them, and some of her classmates are not at all friendly to the gaijin—the foreign girl. Even scarier is the fact that just several months ago a girl was murdered on the slopes behind the school, and no one has found the killers yet.
One of Kara’s only friends at school, Sakura, happens to be the dead girl’s sister, and when strange things begin to happen—Kara and others begin to have frightening nightmares, students begin dying in eerie ways—Kara suspects that Sakura may have something to do with the deaths. Is Sakura taking revenge for her sister on her sister’s killers, or has the dead girl actually come back to finish the deeds herself?
DREAMS OF THE DEAD is a well-written novel that combines the fascinating ways of Japanese life with your typical horror story. It may satisfy young horror fans’ appetite for creepiness, but others may find it difficult to stay engaged with the slow-moving plot.
Perhaps most brilliant about this book are its endless depictions of Japanese customs. Either the author has done his research well, or he has actually lived in Japan before, because we truly get to experience Kara’s discomforts, difficulties, and simultaneous fascination with Japan. The author makes us always aware of the language his characters are speaking even though everything is written in English, and reading DREAMS OF THE DEAD was like effortlessly taking a semester abroad in Japan.
The slow plot often hinders the horror component of this book. Much remains a mystery as Kara experiences her nightmares and is forced to observe her classmates’ deaths, and while this was suspenseful at first, it quickly grew too prolonged to hold my attention. Honestly, not enough interesting and horrifying things happen to justify the number of pages it takes to get to the sadly rushed ending.
That being said, there aren’t that many straightforward, classic horror stories anymore, and so DREAMS OF THE DEAD fills a welcome deficient spot in the YA genre. Pick this up to experience a slightly creepy story in a fascinating foreign world; it’ll make you want to move to Japan yourself—though not for the horror part.
R. L. Stine
Simon Holt (The Devouring)
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Creepy composition, especially with the colors, but unabashedly white for a book set in an Asian country, where the dead girl was JAPANESE. Eurgh. Those of who you read my post about the Liar cover know my feelings about this subject already.
Bloomsbury USA / Sept. 29, 2009 / Paperback / $8.99
Thank you, Anna, for sending me a copy for review!
A Quick Interview with Author Thomas Randall
1. Your details about Japanese life are so vivid and believable. How much of it was drawn from personal experience, and how much came from research?
TR: It's very heartening even to be asked that question. I've gotten a lot of feedback from people who assume that I must have spent some time in Japan or at least visited there based on the atmosphere of the book, but actually I've never been there. I would love to go and I certainly hope that having written this trilogy will somehow lead to an opportunity to visit the country. However, everything in the book comes either from research--both from books and from reading essays, articles and blogs online--and from Japanese folklore.
2. Noh plays are integral in the characters figuring out what's going on in the story. Do you have a particular Noh play that is your favorite?
TR: Again, everything I know about Noh I learned from research. I've never had the good fortune to see one performed live, but I would love to do so. The combination of folklore and artistry and discipline is fascinating to me. The middle book in the trilogy, SPIRITS OF THE NOH, focuses even more on the Noh club, and I loved reading about the history of the art form and the various masks.
TR: Though very few of us have ever been as much a stranger in a strange land as Kara is in DREAMS OF THE DEAD--starting a new life at a new school in a foreign country with no one with whom we have anything in common to fall back on--we've all been there to a certain degree. Everyone feels like the outsider sometimes. Everyone goes through periods, especially as a teenager, when we feel isolated and tentative. So I relate in a big way to Kara, and I think that most readers will relate to her circumstances too. I also relate to Miho, who is sort of the voice of wisdom among Kara's friends.
4. Dreams of the Dead is, in a sense, a vampire story. What is your favorite vampire story?
TR: Wow. There are so many that I love. Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND. Stephen King's SALEM'S LOT. Anne Rice's original INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Bram Stoker's DRACULA. The classics are classics for a reason. I also love the novel THE LIGHT AT THE END by John Skipp and Craig Spector. Brian Lumley's NECROSCOPE books. Of more recent books, Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels are huge, huge fun.
TR: Check out THE BLUE GIRL by Charles de Lint. Excellent, excellent stuff.
6. Any final thoughts you want to say to readers?
TR: Only that I hope you'll check out THE WAKING: DREAMS OF THE DEAD and that it creeps you out...and that you'll let me know what you think.
Thanks for answering my questions! You can find out more about the author, the book, and the blog tour at his website. (And for the record, Thomas Randall is a pseudonym for....? It's a not-so-secret secret. Can you figure it out? *smiles enigmatically*)