Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dead Eye: The Skinwalker Conspiracies review


    The Dead Eye series by Jim Bernheimer follows the adventures of Mike Ross, Ferryman to the dead. Bestowed the ability to see and communicate with ghosts due to an eye transplant from a psychic. Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman chronicled Mike's struggle with the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe's brother plus a Civil War battlefield full of spooks.

    The premise of The Skinwalker Conspiracies is Mike settling into his role as the world's Ferryman. Having gained a number of allies, he sets upon his most important mission yet: to find his father who had been possessed by a Skinwalker during his teenage years. This gets him involved in a massive conflict between Lee Harvey Oswald (!), Hernado De Soto (!!), Virginia Wolfe (!!!), and his best friend's stripper ex-girlfriend's ghost.

    The number of historical personages who show up in the Dead Eye series is one of the series' main appeals. Despite the fact Mike discovers that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the party responsible for Kennedy's death due to possession, he's still portrayed as a sociopath radical Marxist nutjob. While none of the character's portrayals are historically accurate, they're enjoyable and work for the context of the world.

    The Skinwalker Conspiracies is far more linked together than its predecessor, less like a series of funny vignettes and more like a single coherent narrative. Hernando De Soto is an excellent villain who possesses numerous abilities which are both plausible as well as fascinating to watch. I also like the insight this book provides into ghost metaphysics, stating that the more famous a ghost is as well as the older, the more powerful they are.

    There's some truly great moments spread throughout the book. Mike Ross' brief romance with a ghost from the 1960s is a high point, showing that what he really wants most in his life is stability. I also loved an utterly surreal moment when his soul is imprisoned in a dog. The book pays a lot more attention to Mike's social life and we get a sense he is a very lonely person who just wants to have friends who don't try to kill him.

    My favorite characters from the previous novel, Jenny and Candy, don't make an onscreen appearance here and this was disappointing. I was a big pusher for Mike and Candy's relationship, which ended rather abruptly in the previous novel. I was doubly surprised to see Jenny not play a role in the novel given how important she was to the narrative. Despite this, there's many interesting female characters and I enjoyed the return of Karla especially.

    Unfortunately, there is one serious flaw in the book I would be remiss in not mentioning. Jim Bernheimer sets up a character as a morally bankrupt but "fun" rival to Mike Ross. Cassandra, a Skinwalker from the previous book, becomes less of an enemy and more of an uneasy ally to our hero. Unfortunately, said character's actions are unforgivable and horrific.

    In the TV show Supernatural, there was a fan outcry when protagonist Sam started sleeping with a demon named Ruby, mostly due to the fact any body she was inhabiting was getting sexually assaulted due to being a hostage by Ruby. We get to see the aftermath of Cassandra's rampage in one young woman having been confined to a mental hospital for her years of abuse. This is in addition to the betrayals, murders, and torture she commits as an unrepentant monster.

    She is, in a word, irredeemable.

    Mike treats her more like the mean girl at his local high school.

    It's...really dissonant.

    Despite this, I'm not going to complain too much. The book is a bit rough to start and has the curious quality of using "Episodes" instead of Chapters (carrying over from the previous book no less) but has a mostly enjoyable narrative. Mike Ross is an enjoyable protagonist and he has a fun collection of supporting players.

    I just hope he sends Cassandra straight to hell next book

8.5/10

Buy at Amazon.com

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