Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Two years ago, on the same day but miles apart, Finn Darby lost two of the most important people in his life: his wife Lorena, struck by lightning on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, and his abusive, alcoholic grandfather, Tom Darby, creator of the long-running newspaper comic strip Toy Shop.
Against his grandfather’s dying wish, Finn has resurrected Toy Shop, adding new characters, and the strip is more popular than ever, bringing in fan letters, merchandising deals, and talk of TV specials. Finn has even started dating again.
When a terrorist attack decimates Atlanta, killing half a million souls, Finn begins blurting things in a strange voice beyond his control. The voice says things only his grandfather could know. Countless other residents of Atlanta are suffering a similar bizarre affliction. Is it mass hysteria, or have the dead returned to possess the living?
Finn soon realizes he has a hitcher within his skin… his grandfather. And Grandpa isn’t terribly happy about the changes Finn has been making to Toy Shop. Together with a pair of possessed friends, an aging rock star and a waitress, Finn races against time to find a way to send the dead back to Deadland… or die trying.
Thoughts: I could rate this novel highly solely due to the fact that McIntosh referenced steampunk rock band Abney Park (who, by the way, do some seriously awesome music, and if you haven’t listened to them before then you’re missing out), but that would involve ignoring all the other talent that McIntosh presented as the plot of Hitchers developped.
The premise for the novel is a fairly simple one. The souls of the dead have come back, are possessing people, and now these people have to figure out how to either stop it or live with it. McIntosh layers on the intrigue by adding time constraints (the spirits are taking control more and more, sometimes to the point where the original personality is being driven out entirely), and some very interested character interactions and conflicts, and when it all adds up you get a book that compells you to keep turning pages just to see what happens next.
The story brings up the interesting quesion of the ethics of body-sharing, and the conflicts that can arise from it. Finn, the main character, lost his wife in a boating accident, and during the possession incident, the spirit comes back in the body of the woman who Finn realizes he’s getting a crush on. Meanwhile, Finn is possessed by the spirit of his angry drunken grandfather, who is annoyed that Finn went against his final wishes. This is a story built upon layers, all of them wonderfully and finely detailed so that you truly feel as though you’re reading about real people instead of merely characters in a book.
This is the kind of book that can appeal not only to those who tend to enjoy speculative fiction but also those whose tastes run a bit more to the mainstream. It was an excellent introduction to McIntosh’s writing, and I can’t wait to see what else he’s done, or what he will do, because after this I think he’s got me hooked as a fan for a long time to come. Highly recommended!
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)