A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.
According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.
Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.
An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.
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Squailia’s uneven but promising debut delivers some exquisite worldbuilding alongside a mix of humor and philosophy. In Dead City, Jacob Campbell is on a quest to find the Living Man, an Orpheus-like figure who supposedly entered the afterlife without dying. Campbell hopes the interloper can show him how to get to the world of the living. He’s accompanied by Remington, a boy who can control corpses and has a raven nesting in his head, and the dandy Leopold, an inveterate gambler and carouser who is also the only man in the afterlife with a functional erection. Their journey includes multi-day benders in bars beneath the city, visits to never-ending battlefields, and more. This underworld is a fascinating city in which people decay, time is currency, and floods constantly rearrange the landscape. The focus is less on action and more on the sheer inanity of life after death, as in a battle sequence where a monster built of severed body parts uses video game techniques to defeat its enemies. Squailia’s not yet a settled, assured writer, but he’s on his way. (Mar.)
“If China Miéville, Neil Gaiman and Hunter S. Thompson had a ménage à trois, Dead Boys would be the lovechild. A cracking book.”
Jay Kristoff, author of Stormdancer
“A macabre, madcap picaresque full of fast-talking corpses and philosophical skeletons. Squailia's super-charged prose swings from bone-crunching action to meditations on the meaning of life and the mysteries of death. It's an exuberant mashup.”
Brendan Mathews, author of The World of Tomorrow
“Exquisite worldbuilding alongside a mix of humor and philosophy This underworld is a fascinating city.”
“If Neil Gaiman wrote an episode of Deadwood without the swearing and all the characters were already dead, it might read a little like this. I was utterly charmed.”
Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads
“A cheeky read and full of the quirky characters that keep my heart beating, Dead Boys gave me the fantastical journey I’ve been dying (har) to read.”From the Publisher
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