Dead on Arrival by Crystal Lynn Hilbert

Dead on Arrival by Crystal Lynn Hilbert
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (46 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The only thing worse than Max’s death is his new living arrangement.

Max is dead. He’s stuck haunting his old apartment, waking up every day reliving his embarrassing death-by-shaving-accident. To make matters worse, he’s got a new flatmate: Charlie, the too-serious student. There’s no light or heavenly music waiting for Max, just a monotonous afterlife with a girl who can see ghosts and hates it.

As bored as Max is, though, he isn’t ready to move on. He wasted his whole life and now that it is behind him, he doesn’t want to be erased. But if he’s going to maintain his hold on his existence, Max is going to have to learn how to live with Charlie. And maybe along the way he can teach her how to live with seeing the dead.

Max’s afterlife has turned out to be even less meaningful or exciting than the short amount of time he had on earth. So much for angels, harps, or eternal peace.

The character development in this piece is superb. Max and Charlie have strong personalities that are slowly revealed as the plot thickens and they begin to get on each other’s nerves. It’s up to the reader to puzzle out their many strengths and weaknesses. What really impressed me, though, was how these characters grow as a result of everything that happens to them. Their core selves remain the same, but Max and Charlie reveal the nuances of their personalities through the parts of themselves that change.

I would have liked to have a little more information about the rules that govern the recently deceased. Max’s mood shifts extremely rapidly from one scene to the next, and I was never quite sure if this was part of his personality or an after-effect of his sudden, traumatic death. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise wonderful tale, though.

Out of all of the emotions I expected to feel when I picked this book up, delight wasn’t one of them. If Max was still alive he’d never have chosen Charlie as his roommate. Being forced to live with someone whose habits, values, and interests are the polar opposite of his own gives the plot ample opportunity to find the humorous side of the afterlife.

Dead on Arrival is the best ghost story I’ve read so far this year. If you’re in the mood for a dark, witty take on life after death, this is a great place to start.

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