Book Review: Reboots: Undead Can Dance

Reboots: Undead Can Dance
Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
CAEZIK Sf & Fantasy
Copyright 2021 by the authors

Vampires, werewolves, and zombies exist. For that matter, so do a lot of other supernatural creatures from folklore, but not in anything near the same numbers. Now after the humans (“Norms” in the common slang) have decisively come out ahead in a global war against the “reboots” (i.e. zombies) and have attained clear domination over the “fangs” and “furs” et al., what do you do with all the millions upon millions of practically immortal beings hanging around?

Put them in cheap spaceships, and send them off to explore and colonize the galaxy, naturally!

That’s the basic premise behind this connected set of four novellas (some of which have been previously published).

The first, “Bad Moon Rising”, is a prologue to the other three. It sets up the two secondary protagonists, a werewolf engineer and an intelligent zombie, and is the “backstory” for the second, “Just the Right Bullets”.

Our protagonist is Humphrey the Boggart (a “boggart” is a being from English folklore) whose innate abilities for limited shapeshifting and short-range teleporting come in very handy in his job as a private detective.

In “Just the Right Bullets”, he’s hired on the “down low” by the Home Service (the agency that sent out all those exploration ships) to find out what happened to one of their ships that they lost track of – until its automatic emergency beacon activated.

After successfully resolving that case (despite run-ins with pirates and a former lover), he takes on the werewolf and zombie as his partners. “Diabolical Streak” sees them tracking down a missing son in an incredibly wealthy family, and “The Somnambulist Waltz” has them being hired to follow a wayward spouse and see if he’s having an affair. Needless to say, everything turns out to be more complex – and more dangerous – than initially believed.

I don’t know if you could call this a “spoof” of the noir genre, or even an “homage”, even though it uses ALL THE TROPES. What we’ve got here is a really fun and action-packed set of stories, in a wonderfully rich milieu. Lackey and Martin mix horror and SF together to come up with answers to questions like “What happens to a werewolf on a planet with several moons?” and “What good are zombies on starships?” You’ll have to read it to find out. There’s also a great depiction of a society where all these creatures exist out in the open – and are integrated into society. Werewolves have grouped themselves into “dens” and “packs”, and vampires into “clans” and “nests”. They each have their friends / fans / “groupies”, who share similar sartorial tastes and behavior.

It’s all a great deal of fast-paced fun. Lackey and Martin play fair with the abilities of the characters; nothing is ever pulled out of thin air. As far as the “detective” parts of the stories, the reader should be able to figure things out in step with Humphrey and Co. That it’s in four self-contained and easily-digestible sections made it much more agreeable to me. There’s little worry about having to put the book down and forget where you were when you come back to it a day or two later. And there’s practically no filler or slow spots.

One can imagine more stories being written about Humphrey. If the authors are up to it, they would be most welcome.

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