Ian McDonald is one of the most accomplished young British writers, and his work is becoming better known in the United States. He won the Locus award for best first novel in 1989 with Desolation Road (1988) and the Philip K. Dick Award for best original fantastic paperback with King of Morning, Queen of Day (1991) in 1992.
Much of Necroville’s initial effect is obtained by abrupt cuts from one character and/or portion of the action to another. The novel comes alive with nervous energy that cannot be communicated in a plot summary. Its style is elliptical, allusive, and aggressively vivid. That lively vividness is, in fact, part of McDonald’s purpose. As opposed to the icy clarity and remoteness of Robert Silverberg’s resurrected characters in “Born with the Dead,” McDonald’s book is bursting with life. The experience of reading Necroville shows that it is possible and even exhilarating to assimilate large amounts of unfamiliar experience.
It is important for readers to recognize this. Death is one of the most inescapable but frightening boundaries of consciousness, so most people avoid thinking about it. In Necroville, the meat humans’ refusal to accept kinship with the dead appears at first to be a device to permit their exploitation, but actually it is another example of the horrified denial that impels Camaguey to lash out at the person who innocently brought about his death. Even though he knows that he will be resurrected, Camaguey finds his own death literally unthinkable.
The living characters grope with their small personal concerns, but the dead have bigger plans: conquering interstellar space. They are the ones reaching outward for new challenges, and they are the true representatives of humanity. They do not have to be desperate about solving their problems because they have eternity in which to work things...
(The entire section is 453 words.)