Bad Moon Books
Limited Perfect Bound Trade/$17.95
Review by Nickolas Cook
Some readers may find John Urbancik’s newest release from Bad Moon Books, Necropolis, to be a diffuse and surreal nightmare, brought to life through poetic phrasing and images. But if close attention is paid, its pages will also reveal an erudite and literate homage to Poe, the master of the macabre. The careful reader will pick out Poe’s titles and phrases scattered throughout the narrative.
When five people find themselves trapped in an ancient ‘city of the dead’ after dark, they encounter strange beings – including Nyx, the Greek primordial goddess of the night – lurking within the vast cemetery’s benighted stones and crawling vines, and must make life and death decisions that seal their fates.
Besides the above mentioned Poe love, the lynchpin to this short tale is Urbancik’s lyrical style of writing; some passages could even be considered musically when read them aloud. No one can dispute his ability to make a sentence stand attention. That, coupled with his cemetery photos, truly helps create a sense of ominous mythology in Necropolis. In fact, it reads as if he intends his cemetery setting to be an existential playground through which his characters must traverse.
That being said, there are issues that may leave some readers … well, feeling a little dead inside about Necropolis.
For one, his characters suffer because of the brevity of space allowed to unfold the story: they feel vague and underdeveloped. One wishes he’d been able to create a bit more empathy for Kevin, Jill, Kelli, Anna and Darren. Unfortunately none exists.
And that fact doesn’t much help the narrative, which in itself already suffers from too much twining. The whole reads in a very disjointed manner, which may have been Urbancik’s intention, and admittedly may be only a matter of personal taste.
Unfortunately I found myself having to go back to re-read passages to make sure I was still with one or other of the characters. This abstract quality may risk alienating some readers by its obscurity.
So is Necropolis worth the cover price?
Even if it were only for Urbancik’s excellent photos alone.
But it is also recommended because, despite the diffuse, and sometimes confusing, nature of the narrative, it is a well written story, with some real touches of Gothic beauty. Urbancik is a time tested craftsman that can always give his readers an interesting story, if not always told in the traditional manner.