RESURRECTION DREAMS by RICHARD LAYMON
As a teen in the eighties, just like now, I was always more of a comic and magazine reader than a book reader. Sure as a younger kid I had read adventure stuff like Doctor Who, the Famous Five and Secret Seven, and of course movie novelizations like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, but I was always more interested in the monthly tales of Daredevil and the Fantastic Four, or being totally engrossed in the latest Famous Monsters of Filmland, or if I was lucky, the gory pics in a new mag known as Fangoria…
… until I discovered a gentleman by the name of Richard Laymon. In my teens, in addition to being a rabid comic reader, I was also a fanatical video hirer… so much so that my local video shop ended up HIRING me!! The movies that I loved the most were the slasher films, and whilst discussing this with a man at a local second hand book shop, he told me if I liked ‘those’ sorts of films, I’d love the books of Richard Laymon, and he sold me a $1.50 of a book called ‘Beware!!’ and I was immediately hooked.
This single book turned into a love of lurid, gore soaked tales, and so Laymon, along with Shaun Hutson, Guy N. Smith and James Herbert became high on my reading list, though Laymon was always the best.
None of his books, though, ever surpassed the absolute joy I experienced in reading this book, Resurrection Dreams, and it remains, to this day my second favourite books ever (out of interest, the first is The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks: if you haven’t read that you are missing out on an AMAZING book about one of the best literary psychotics ever).
Resurrections Dreams starts with a bang! A car accident leaves the head cheerleader and her boyfriend as corpses, hers being headless and the school’s biggest nerd, and bullying victim, Melvin decides that for his science fair project, he’s going to dig her up and attempt to resuscitate her by hooking her up to a car battery… which of course fails miserably and he finds himself thrown into a facility for those whose judgement may lean towards a more nutso end of the scale.
Several years later, our heroine, Vicki, who was the only girl particularly nice to Melvin, returns to the town after graduating university to take a job at the local Doctor’s office with the man who encouraged her to become a medic.
Upon returning to town, she stops at the local petrol station to fill her car and meets the newly released from the asylum Melvin, who is over excited to see her again. They talk about old times, and feeling uncomfortable, she finds an excuse to take her leave.
Melvin’s obsession with her returns in full swing and decides that he needs to win her over, and after trying some normal, yet over-the-top means, like giving her a car, which she summarily rejects, he tries other methods.
See Melvin wasn’t completely idle in the hospital, and his research into the reanimation of the dead has become an actuality. His first successful attempt, a nurse named Patricia, is completely in his thrall and will do ANYTHING he says, including kill for him, which he uses as a tool to execute those who have crossed Vicky, or look like they could assist her by being out of the way.
The problem with the dead he reanimates is that they are completely and absolutely dedicated to their master and get insanely jealous very easily and are extraordinarily hard to dispose of, which may spell disaster for Melvin’s ultimate plan for completely possessing Vicki.
Straight away from the synopsis you can see that Laymon has taken the all of the traditional, both cinematic and actual ‘Voodoo’, zombies and turned the idea on its head. These zombies are able to function more or less in a normal society even though they suffer of an obsession with their masters and the unreasonable character flaw of biting during sex… but Hell, who doesn’t!! This is the real strength of the book. A lot of the characters, especially Melvin, are B grade horror stereotypes, but having the zombies as functional beings rather than tools of the apocalypse makes it far more interesting that most of the walking dead stuff you may be exposed to in the current glut of zombie overexposure. He uses his skill as a writer on several occasions to surprise… well, it’s not always immediately apparent… the reader as to WHO has already been turned!
Laymon’s writing style is a pleasure to read. The words flow off the page at a great rate, and he was well aware that most interested in the subject that he writes about would not be too interested in deep subtle underlying meanings or a more flowery writing style. This is lurid pulp horror and he relishes in it!! Little goes into the descriptions of surroundings or landscape, but when it comes to gore or sex, every severed tendon and turgid member is explicitly detailed, and this is what B Grade horror film fans want from a novel, don’t they? I know THIS B grade horror fan does!
The real crime is that Laymon’s novels seem to get ignored when movie types look for projects, and Resurrection Dreams, in a world where HBO and other TV networks can show sex and horror on TV would make for an amazing series if it were given half a chance!
Overall, like I said previously, this is one of my favourite novels of all time and its ability to take the whole zombie sub-genre of horror and make it his own provide a great read for those daring enough to dig up a copy.