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Title & Author: Shades: The Gehenna Dilemma (Shades Series, Volume 1), Eric Dallaire

Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction/Dystopian, April 2, 2015

Book Description: “In 2039, when people die owing money, the government turns them into mindless servants. Shades. These undead workers toil until their debts are settled. Without complaint, they pave roads, till fields, and build moon settlements for the wealthy. Jonah Adams struggles to balance his life in this grim world. To prevent his dying mother from becoming a shade, he joins the IRS as a ghoul, an agent that collects recently deceased debtors. The pay is good, but the cost is high. His girlfriend, Vanessa, a bankruptcy lawyer protecting the rights of the poor, despises his line of work. To set things right, he just needs to complete a few more missions. With luck, he can settle all scores and maybe have enough to buy two tickets to the lunar colony. However, nothing comes easy for Jonah, especially when others come to reap what he has sown.”

First Line: “A perfect night for your grave deeds, sir,” Sasha whispered to me.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

Death and taxes were never so literally intermingled than in this unique twist on zombies set in the near future. Die with debts and the IRS, an acronym cleverly re-imagined as the Incorporeal Revenue Service, and its agents come to collect your body, straight from the casket if need be. It will then be reanimated to work as a laborer until the debts are paid off. No dine and dash in this world!

This grisly scenario is all the more realistically depicted by the way the commercial economy tries to suck the populace into debt (a scene I’m sure we can all relate to). “Live now” advertisements are everywhere, suggesting that patrons buy dream houses, cars or vacations with the notion that these can be paid off after death. In this world, the “New Church” and science have declared that Shades do not have souls, thus there is no suffering. The author does a great job of making the reader wonder about the truth of this without actually posing the question outright.

I found that the central theme was not just a moral one of collecting debts through slave labor, but also an existential, even theological one: What does it mean to be “alive”? An abstract and perhaps subjective idea, I enjoyed pondering such philosophical depths amid fantastic action sequences and kick-ass Sci-Fi tech while on an adventure that spanned from the Earth, to the moon, and beyond.

The Magical: Great world building with historical references both real and imagined to really give a sense of how things evolved into the current situation. The story deals with zombie slave labor and yet I had no trouble believing it was plausible. Seriously well done.

The Mundane: “Holy interruptions, Batman!” There were entire dialogue sections where it seemed everyone was constantly cutting each other off mid- sentence.  This was distracting when it happened.

Summary of Thoughts: A wonderful book with amazing themes centered around greed, sentience and mankind’s drifting humanity. A tall order that the author delivers on. It’s currently just $1.99 on the Kindle. Don’t miss out on this great story!

And with that, I’m off to go balance my checkbook and pay a few bills early…you know, just in case.


Many thanks to author Eric Dallaire for providing a copy of the book to review!

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For more information about this author, check out his website here