Gregory Hughes, writer of the astoundingly good Unhooking The Moon, is back with a Kill Bill-esque tale full of darkness, revenge and love. Summertime Of The Dead, set in the streets of Tokyo, is a blinding book. It’s the story of one summer in the life of Yukio and it’s the summer where his world went wrong. His two best friends are dead following a spiral of events involving the Japanese mafia. And Yukio loved them. He loved them so much, he decides to avenge their deaths.
Because Yukio is also a master at kendo.
If there’s one thing (and there’s not, there’s several) that Hughes does really well, it’s tales where teenagers suddenly become adults. He writes those moments superbly (and incredibly sympathetically). The moments when Yukio takes his first nervous, terrified, angry, furious steps into the adult world and starts to avenge his friends, are moments which are superbly written.
Where this book gets particularly interesting is with the introduction of The Lump. This character has a lot of parallel with The Rat from Unhooking The Moon and if it were poorly done, I’d be picking Hughes up on it. But it’s not. The Lump is Yukio’s cousin and she acts sort of as his moral barometer, even when he’s lost down so very low in his darkness. She’s fascinating. And sort of utterly lovely.
Summertime Of The Dead isn’t for the squeamish. There’s a fair few explicit scenes of death and murder and a couple of graphic situations at the end and it’s got a heck of an ending that doesn’t pull any punches (no pun intended). But where I think this book shines is in the relationships between characters, and that curious awareness that people may damn you but some people can also save you.
It’s a book that is somehow full of both death and life all at once.