One of the most promising of the up and coming "new-wave" horror authors, Adam Cesare, again delivers what he does best with Zero Lives Remaining Namely, a gore-soaked throwback to the days of old. He's previously done much the same with cannibal movies (Tribesmen), horror movie VHS nights with friends (Video Night) and creature features (Exponential). This time round, Cesare targets the old school arcades that were effectively rendered extinct by the combined onslaught of Playstations, Xboxes and PC gaming.
One of the best things about Cesare's writing is he does not waste pages establishing irrelevant character traits that never have any bearing on the plot (*cough*King*cough*). Instead, he gives the reader just enough to work with per character and then gleefully sentences each of those characters to a grim (and usually messy) death. Zero Lives Remaining does not deviate far from that formula, though it could be argued that after a typical prologue which fills in who the ghost in the machine is in this instance, things happen too quickly. My major complaint with this one is the way in which events go from Caspar the Friendly Ghost to full on mayhem. It makes a kind of sense within the pages of the novella, but it did not feel earned to me - perhaps because bad, misunderstood boy Chris is painted in strokes which are too broad.
But Kais, I hear you ask, didn't you just say Cesare's ability to quickly sketch in a character is one of the things you like most about his writing? Yes. Yes I did. But the narrative still has to work even with less detailed characters and I never quite bought into the threat this time around. It went from Point A to B to C so damned fast, my head was left figuratively spinning.
Oh well. Once the mayhem starts, it's pure Cesare all the way. So by the time the penultimate death had taken place, I was back on board and again smiling with satisfaction over what had just taken place.
All of which is to say, this is good Cesare. Better than the disappointing Video Night for mine, but not in the same league as the exceptionally fantastic Exponential.
3.5 Stabby Ectoplasmic Tendrils for Zero Lives Remaining.