Path of the Dead by Timothy Baker (Hungry Ghosts #1)

Path of the Dead by Timothy Baker is the first book in a series that explores zombies in Tibet. It would be easy to dismiss this book as being just another zombie book, but that would be doing a great disservice to an author who delivers some deep thoughts about the nature of Buddhism, and how someone of the Buddhist faith might react to the living dead. This is an action driven adventure novel with a lot of popcorn moments for sure, but it is also a novel that gives you the opportunity to go deep if you want to.

The story follows a group of Tibetan villagers as they desperately try to escape a zombie infestation. They belong to a small and close knit community, so the population of zombies are made up from deceased loved ones and colleagues, adding some tension and emotion to the story. There are two main protagonists driving this story, a ten year old boy named Chodren and a Shaolin monk named Dorje, who must work together to keep the rest of the survivors alive, a job that becomes increasingly difficult as relationships in the group begin to fall apart.

Path of the Dead is not an overly complex or long story. It is short and reasonably straight-forward, with a focus on character interaction and theme exploration. I enjoyed the way this story was put together, and I thought the character building and interactions were excellent, but in the end I was left wanting a story with a meatier plot to sink my teeth into. Baker has imagined a very large scope for this story and series, and I wish we could have explored just a little more of it before turning the last page.

The other noticeable aspect of this book was the writing, with some beautiful prose and thoughtful exploration of interesting concepts contrasting against some weird prose and silly Hollywood 90's style action sequences. This is Baker's first novel length story and it is hampered by a lack of balance and consistency that you would get from more seasoned authors, but it also has a unique voice and style that can sometimes be missing from those seasoned authors. The silly Hollywood 90's style action sequences could have been a deliberate choice by the author, and it did help to lighten the mood when things were getting dark, but for me it didn't work, not because it was bad but because it didn't fit the overall tone of the story.

Path of the Dead is a solid story from a debut author looking to establish himself in a genre that has become overcrowded in recent years. Baker's thoughtful approach to the genre is not without fault, but it definitely adds something new and worthwhile. I'll definitely pick up the second book when it comes out as I think this series has a lot of potential, and that Baker has the ability to deliver something awesome.

7/10 A solid story from a debut author with potential.

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