Review: The Returned

The ReturnedBy Jason Mott

Mira, out now

What would the living do if the dead suddenly came back to life and wanted to resume their lives as they were?

There have been various riffs on this idea over the past few years – the final Torchwood miniseries Miracle Day was predicated on a similar theme (although there it was that people couldn’t die), and the recent BBC series In the Flesh looked at the effect on a community of the return of those who were or had been zombies. However, whereas Torchwood used the situation for a more action-driven plot, Mott’s novel comes closer to the In the Flesh idea, examining how people truly would react if those believed dead came back. In a clear example of parallel development, some situations and characters are mirrored in The Returned and the TV series, which can lead to an old feeling of déjà vu from time to time.

The Returned doesn’t try to present too many answers: the central plot features an elderly couple who expected to live their lives as parents to their son, but instead found themselves cast as survivors, calcifying in their attitudes, after their boy’s death by drowning in 1966, aged only eight. When their boy miraculously comes back to life – like all the Returned, he’s discovered inexplicably miles from anywhere connected to his original life – his mother and father have to come to terms with not just his return, but also the way in which they have changed. As the situation gets worse, and the father chooses to be interned along with his son, so both examine their deeply-held beliefs.

Some of the other characters in the book are deftly drawn: we get a sense of who they are, and, often more importantly, what they are capable of, even if we don’t spend that much time with them. Little vignettes are peppered through the book, showing some of the other Returned, and giving other perspectives on periphery characters.

This isn’t a novel jumping on the zombie bandwagon; it’s a story about second chances, and what we can do with them – and what, perhaps, we shouldn’t. It’s an examination of adaptability versus rigorous immobility, and will stay with you for some time after you finish it.

Verdict: A thought-provoking novel with some interesting insights. 7/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Returned from Amazon.co.uk

(Three prequels to the story are available for Kindle via Amazon)

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