Book Review: Better Off Dead by Matthew Rowe

Imagine a far-flung future London (Londinium) where humans are as rare as Inuits are today in the same city. Imagine one where Supernaturals are the norm – vampires (which thankfully do not sparkle), werewolves, zombies etc. Imagine a quasi medieval city with fire-breathing dragons and you have a good idea of the background to the story. It has an element of Pratchett about it (and even a few very well appreciated Pratchett in-jokes) and the speed of humour on a par with Robert Rankin – high praise indeed from me.

Against the backdrop of this cosmopolitan city of Londinium is one ancient vampire proclaiming himself ruler. This rather irritates a lot of people and it is down to one reluctant young vampire named Ramses to solve the mystery. This is way above his remit, his main mission in life is to prevent feline tyrants from taking over the world. Nobody told that that would give him the experience to fight other vampires! On his journey he will meet dragons and a whole plethora of bizarre characters who live in the city including P-Head, Gimpy and Khalid.

I really wanted to love this book and it has some truly great things about it. The humour comes thick and fast and it was a case of blink in the wrong place and you miss a joke. It was an interesting plot with a great background. Sadly, and this is the only real problem with it, is that I feel it lacks a true coherent structure. Though the plot is clearly defined, the plot seems to just take us from one high jinks scenario to the next. Whether you like this style of writing is a matter of personal taste for some, sadly it did not work for me.

That being said, it did flow quite well – though in places a bit of tighter editing would not have gone amiss. I felt my attention drifting at times. Couple the lack of clear structure with this and it is in danger at times of slipping into messy territory – for a large portion of the first half I did feel that it lost its way. Thankfully this was saved in the last hundred pages or so, everything seems to be tied up rather nicely.

Despite being marketed as a YA novel, I felt that some of the humour crossed the line into adult humour at times – inappropriate for the intended age group of 12-18. I had to keep stopping to ask myself “can we really do this in a YA book”?

3.5/5 for me.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Better Off Dead by Matthew Rowe

  1. It’s that choppy, MTV-music-video-esque hopping that will force me to put a book down or stop watching a movie altogether. There needs to be a moment, even if it’s within a twinkling of an eye or a paragraph, where the characters must regroup, reflect, and react. All of the hopping between the major segments of a plot and it feels more like a montage than an actual story. It’s why I can never stomach a book to movie transition, because the book takes the time to give a reader a breather and collect themselves. Awesome review, Matt.

    1. Thanks. Matthew Rowe is a semi-regular commenter here. I promised ages ago I would review it fo him. I hope he understands my complaints even though I found it largely enjoyable in the end

  2. Hang on, this looks familiar…. Thanks for taking the time to do this! You know, I completely agree with you. Since I published this book my writing has improved a lot and structure is one of the things I realise now should have had more focus. I’m considering using a pen name in future! This is definitely the best review of my book. I’ll be sending people here.

    1. Very welcome 🙂

      I noticed from the reviews on Amazon and Good Reads that people were saying they preferred stuff you released after this.

      I’ve linked the post to theindieview.com so that should give you a bit more exposure.

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