The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough: Admin Errors from the Other Side by Richard T. Watson

The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough: Admin Errors from the Other Side by Richard T. Watson
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

With a fresh round of spending cuts in the Afterlife and immigration services stretched to breaking point, mistakes are inevitable. Admin errors, but from the Other Side. Anomalies slip through the net and sit down to tea.

It’s those at the bottom that suffer, the ones with no say in it. The living world begins to fill up with those who have died but been refused entry to the Hereafter; the dead that haven’t died to their full potential. The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough is the story of their continued attempts to keep calm and carry on, in a world that has seen too many George Romero films.

The dead live on in our memories, but the Not-Dead-Enough don’t need memories; they need a good beautician and central heating. They’ve been Beyond and come back. They’re not sure they like it.
They’re not just pushing up the daisies; they’re making daisy chains, tidying up the graveside floral arrangements and downloading Interflora vouchers on their smartphones. If you want something done properly…

Loitering somewhere between Dickens, Pratchett and Douglas Adams, The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough is a debut collection of short shorts and flash fictions that isn’t wholly flippant nor wholly serious, but tickles at the join between.

Sometimes the dead do share their secrets.

By far my favorite entry was “Murphy’s Insurance Law.” It was written as a series of letters sent from the CEO of an insurance company to someone who was trying to claim her life insurance benefits under a weird set of circumstances. It’s hard to discuss them in any detail without giving away spoilers, but I chuckled my way through these correspondences. I’ve never read anything quite like this before and was surprised by the author’s inventive approach to the plot.

This anthology contain over twenty stories, nearly all of which were extremely short. In most cases, there was enough plot and character development packed into those few pages to help me connect to the main character and understand what was going on. There were some exceptions to this rule, though, and “A Charitable Death” was one of them. It followed a man named Mark who decides to continue his charitable fundraisers after he died. There were several things about his not-dead-enough existence that never made sense to me. The plot also ended in such an abrupt manner that I had trouble what the narrator was trying to tell me. This happened often enough in this collection that I would have liked to see a little more time spent explaining what was going on. I was otherwise a fan of Mr. Watson’s writing style and would have given his book a higher rating had I not been confused about where he was going with certain characters.

“No Migrants No Zombies No Dogs I” and “No Migrants, No Zombies, No Dogs II” work best together. While they were entertaining when read separately, they were even more appealing to me when I read them back to back. Both of these tales show how a young couple deal with discrimination against them as a result of something they didn’t choose and can’t change. The pacing in them was strong, and the character development made me wish they had been expanded into a full-length novel because I didn’t want to stop following their lives.

The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough: Admin Errors from the Other Side has grabbed my attention. I’d recommend it to anyone in the mood for truly creative science fiction.

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