by Walter Mosley
Review by Ernest Lilley
Aspect Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0446533637
Date: 03 January, 2006 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Computer programmer Errol Porter is middle aged, almost divorced, and largely out of work. In short, he's stuck in a bunch of ruts that don't lead much of anywhere, and he's waiting for something to happen to shake him out of it. He doesn't realize that of course, but that's pretty much where he's at. In the meantime he's making coffee mugs at a local pottery, living over a garage in LA, and getting woken up in the night by a crank caller that claims to be his dad. His dad's dead though, so he's reasonably suspicions.
It turns out that his dad is dead, actually, but the vigorous young man Errol rescues from the cemetery where his father was buried is the spitting image of him, though as he was in his youth, and without the scar that marked him. He's not really Arthur Porter, but he is a faithful rendition of him by the group entity that calls itself "the Wave."
Now, this could mean trouble. Especially if the dead start jumping up out of the ground with superhuman strength, the ability to regenerate limbs, and an unnatural hunger for human brains. Fortunately, only two out of three of those things wind up happening...as the unnatural hunger they have is for...sand. Crunchy and tasty, at least to these replicants from the soil. But even so, as soon as the government gets wind of what's happening, they're not happy about it. True, the undead seem harmless enough, unless attacked, but in classic paranoia it's seen as a them or us kind of situation and steps are taken to wipe them off the face of the earth. Or wherever they come from. Errol's not all that keen on cooperating. For one thing, he's got a pretty strong bond with his father, and this thing, which he calls GT, or Good Times, for the phrase it kept repeating seems to have the same bond back.
A lot of the plot is classic SF, and not especially inspired, even from a fifties black and white movie. Though Errol happens to be Black, and I'm pretty sure there weren't any Black protagonists jumping in bed with the scientist's daughter in fifties matinees. What makes this a lot more interesting is the relationship between the central character and the people around him. He's got a childlike helplessness that evidentially endears him to his father/replicant and several women, including his soon to be ex, his pottery partner, and the sexy wife of the mad plastic surgeon the government puts in charge of the plan to rid the world of the sand people.
As an SF thriller, it's wouldn't make a great movie, but as a coming of age/midlife crisis story about a black man it's a bit more interesting. The rebirth and unconditional love of his father has some religious overtones to it, and the human body as a vessel for a greater being does as well. If you wonder whether there's a judgment day coming for mankind or the resurected, the answer would have to be yes, but I'll let you get there on your own. I liked this book well enough, but it doesn't live up to the overselling of the author the cover provides. That there are no quotes about this book, but many about his previous work, Blue Light, and his Easy Rawlins detective books, which probably suggests that they know it's not up to his usual standard.