Title: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire
Author: Daniel Kraus
Synopsis: May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.
His second life will be nothing like his first.
Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there, he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?
Ambitious and heartbreaking, The Death & Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.
Huge Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!
If I’m being frank, I had no idea what to expect from The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch. When I started reading it, it was one of those books I couldn’t powerthrough, and I’m a fast reader. I found myself completely absorbed into Zebulon’s narrative, as though he was enticing me word by word, enriching me with his long lasting history of what it means to be a living man who cannot die.
Part of what makes Zebulon Finch such an enchanting read is the character of Zebulon himself. There’s something about reading through his life and understanding where he’s been throughout the course of history. It’s interesting to see how Zebulon discusses the various folks whom he’s passed in his travels, as well as how he perhaps has influenced them. My personal favourite was Mary and Leather, and I loved that they stayed as an integral part of his story. Especially Mary, she was just downright fabulous and easily my favourite character.
Plus there’s so much genre bending in this story. While the book behaves like historical fiction, it is as much a horror and science fiction novel. It also has a very unique writing style that at times talks at the reader, which is something I think readers would have to get used to. I personally loved the style, but I could see it being something some readers may have trouble with, because it does make for such a different kind of storytelling.
Then there’s the world building — it’s an alternate history starting in 1896, right until the Depression. However, since he is a man who cannot die, it makes for such an interesting aspect considering he’s also completely on the run. Plus he’s in love with Mary Pickford! MARY PICKFORD! Canada’s Girl! Kraus has done a lot to stay true to historical events while also infusing it with his own style, and I just loved it.
I haven’t read too many novels like The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, and while this took me a long time to read, it’s a book I savoured. Once I finished it, I was bitter I didn’t have Volume Two in my hands because I wanted to just keep going and see how Kraus would continue to alter history after that ending. If you love horror, or alternative history, then Zebulon Finchreally is worth tracking down. It has amazing characters, a rich word, and a protagonist who just keeps you guessing throughout. What more could you ask for?