Morbidly Beautiful

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Richard Farren Barber crafts a suspenseful and multi-dimensional story that’s engaging and emotional with his novel “One of the Dead”.

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Nick Teel lives a mundane life with an office job, where he’s trapped in a cubicle all day. However, Nick feels restless. He knows something the rest of us don’t; he sees what no one else sees. The dead walk, but only he can see or sense their presence. However, these zombies don’t attack violently but feed with a touch. Nick does nothing about them until they infect his girlfriend, Abby. 

Author Richard Farren Barber’s novella, One of the Dead, takes the popular zombie apocalypse scenario and does something original with it.

Nick struggles with his knowledge of the zombies and guilt after one of them infects Abby. He’s conflicted about what he can do to save Abby. Barber weaves in and out of mundane reality and Nick’s reality. He set up many mysteries along the way that kept me turning the pages. At one point, I wondered if Nick suffered from mental illness.

At the beginning, Barber immediately invites the reader into the action, placing you in the center of a busy square. Nick knows a dead man is on the prowl while everyone else is unaware. He describes people milling around, staring at phones, and engaging in protests while a zombie is stalking them.

I also couldn’t help but see Barber’s quiet zombie infestation as a metaphor or commentary on society.

Barber’s prose is well-crafted, and the pacing is perfect.

One of the Dead

The story never lags as Barber leaves a clever cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. The scenes are action-packed and filled with enough sensory detail to make the reader’s skin crawl.

“On the spring breeze, he caught the scent of dead flesh. It triggered images in his head of rotting skin dripping from broken bones. No amount of perfume could ever hide that stink. Nick stepped into the road to escape the press of the crowd. There was no sign of the man yet. Vomit rose to the back of his throat, and it burned when he swallowed it back down.”

Barber throws enough twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader’s mind going. Then, we get to the end. Of course, I won’t spoil it, but this is where I felt unsatisfied.

Overall, the novella was brief but tense and very emotional. Nick is a sympathetic character struggling with many uncertainties in life, as we all do.

Barber’s take on zombies is original, and he builds a multilayered plot around a sympathetic main character.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

One of the Dead is currently available from Crystal Lake Publications. Richard Farren Barber has more than 80 short stories published and seven novellas, including “Twenty Years Dead,” “The Power of Nothing,” “The Sleeping Dead,” and more. He also published two novels, “The Living and the Lost” and “The Screaming Dead” (co-authored with Peter Mark May). 

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