Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater
Pub. Date: February 10, 2015
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Tor Books!!)
Summary: In the dead spots, dreams become reality, terror knows your name, and nightmares can kill you.
The stillbirth of Mackenzie’s son destroyed her marriage. Grieving, Mac reluctantly heads for her childhood home to seek refuge with her mother, who constantly reminds her of life’s dangers.
Driving across Texas, Mac swerves to avoid hitting a deer…and winds up in a dead spot, a frightening place that lies between the worlds of the living and the dead. If they can control their imaginations, people can literally bring their dreams to life—but most are besieged by fears and nightmares which pursue them relentlessly.
Mackenzie’s mother and husband haunt her, driving her to the brink of madness. Then she hears a child call for help and her maternal instincts kick into overdrive. Grant, Mac’s ally in the dead spots, insists Johnny is a phantom, but the boy seems so real, so alive….
As the true horrors of the dead spots are slowly revealed, Mackenzie realizes that time is running out. But exits from the dead spots are nearly impossible to find, and defended by things almost beyond imagination.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Horror-lite
Recommended for: Fans of Frater’s As the World Dies series, readers who enjoy fast-paced brain fluff
Many fans of horror know Rhiannon Frater’s name from her As the World Dies series. While I’m not a typical fan of the zombie sub-genre, I’ve heard many, many people praise these books and after having finished Dead Spots, I’m curious to see what else she has to offer. So my only knowledge of her/her books were that they involved zombies. That’s it. When I heard about this new series I was intrigued, particular since it doesn’t involve zombies and let’s be real here – I got this book in the mail last week. By the weekend I had already read it. That alone should tell you something.
Mackenzie has a wonderful life. Okay, so her mother’s paranoid delusions might make their phone calls a bit hard to handle, but Mac has a doting husband, a gorgeous house, and soon she’ll be holding her baby boy in her arms. Her dream life comes crashing down the day she realizes she hasn’t been feeling her son kick. Her worst fears become a reality after a devastating stillbirth and, six months later, there’s no hope for her marriage. Tanner moved in with another woman and sent Mac divorce papers.
As she’s making the move back home to her mother’s ranch, Mackenzie swerves to hit a deer and enters a dead spot where she finds out just how terrifying her nightmares can be. She seeks refuge in an abandoned diner – or, at least it was abandoned. Upon entering, the jukebox fires up, diners fill the booths, and a woman was soon asking for Mac’s order. It was only with the help of Grant, an old-school-Hollywood-handsome man, that Mac’s able to make sense of it all.
As they flee the diner to a safe haven (as if safe has any meaning in this world), Grant explains dead spots and how, once you’re in, you’re in for good. Grant has been trapped for decades (the old school Hollywood look isn’t just a look!) and has lost multiple companions along the way for death is not the end in this world: if you die you immediately come back…or you slowly lose you mind and become a wraith. With this world feeding off her fears (open graves try to swallow Mac, Tanner and his new girlfriend appear to tell her what a horrible mother she was), Mac knows she needs to find a way out, but how?
First thing’s first: I wouldn’t exactly label Dead Spots horror. Horror-lite? Horror-esque? Scary sci-fi? I went into this novel expecting classic Stephen King (speaking of! How’s YOUR #hailtotheking goal coming along??). Instead of terrors that kept me up at night, I got something similar to Revival, a story more rooted in sci-fi than straight up horror. While it wasn’t what I had been anticipating, I found that it worked and I churned through this book (a pretty respectable 400-page novel) in record time. If you’re looking for some good escapism, here you go. Dead Spots is perfect for those days when you want a fun read without having to think too much.
Next up: the dead spots. Frater’s world building was incredibly intricate and part of the reason why I couldn’t put the book down! This is a world where nightmares rule. It’s not at all uncommon to see dragons doing battle or fighter jets whizzing by overhead. There’s a clown who was once human, but after crossing over, gave in to his bloodlust and now lives for torturing his victims in brutal ways. That said, there are a select few who have been able to create Dream Palaces (one particularly infamous Dream Palace belong to a teenage girl: a pink castle with unicorns!) and for some, these havens are even better than the real world. My favorite concept in this new world though, is definitely the magical-esque element. Because Mac so recently came through, she’s bright and full of life. She’s able to transform an abandoned house back to its former glory. Someone like Grant has lost much of that ability over time (and with each death) and so he relies on Mac for shelter, food, etc. She’s able to whip up a badass weapon just by thinking about it. Lucas, another human trapped in this world, has a ’64 Mustang with an ever-full gas tank.
Third, the cover. I wasn’t a big fan of the cover prior to reading, but the deeper I got into the book, the more the cover delighted me. It actually matches the story. How often does that happen?? The amusement park rides in the background? That’s an actual scene in the book (guess who they meet there..!) and the clothing the cover model is wearing? Mac is described as wearing exactly that outfit – right down to the boots. Bravo to whoever designed this one!
While I could have done without Mackenzie’s mood swings (for the past six months she hasn’t wanted to let go of her child and Tanner, yet one day after entering the dead spot she’s already thinking about Grant), Dead Spots was a shockingly fun and blindingly quick read despite its length. I have no idea when the sequel will come out – or if there even is a sequel, but I’m already looking forward to diving back in this world (and catching up with Lucas~)!