Hitchers by Will McIntosh – Life After Life After Death

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fantastic cover art for Hitchers.

Fantastic cover art for Hitchers.

Finn Darby has suffered more than his fair share of losses. At the age of twelve, his twin sister drowned. In his late twenties, his beloved wife Lorena died in a freak accident on the same day that his grandfather relinquished his hold on life. Despite his grandfather’s spiteful final wishes, Finn decides to continue the comic strip that his grandfather had created fifty years ago. Slowly, with the help of the Toy Shop strip, Finn begins to acclimatise to life without Lorena.
When Atlanta suffers a targeted anthrax attack, the city loses a tenth of its population. Finn manages not to get sick, but soon begins to suffer a disturbingly inconvenient malady: he is blurting out words and phrases that only his dead grandfather would ever have uttered.
Panicked, Finn seeks out others with similar problems. He connects with an aging rockstar named Mick, and together, they establish the uncanny truth of their shared predicament – they are being possessed by the dead.

  The dead are returning all over Atlanta. Possessing any bodies that they can find, they are determined to re-establish their place among the living. Finn is determined to find Lorena. Through a coded message in the daily Toy Shop strip, he finds her: Lorena is possessing Summer, a bohemian waitress that she met only once before.
Finn is determined to get his bitter grandfather out of his body and his life once and for all. But if he banishes his grandfather, then he’s also banishing Lorena. Finn, Mick and Summer have limited time to rid themselves of their hitchers, and they’ll have to live with the consequences of their actions whether they succeed or not. 

Hitchers is not a complicated story – in fact, it’s downright predictable in some places. At its heart, it is a love story, and it retains all the usual clichés. But the thing is, it’s so loveable. Finn is such a lovely male protagonist: he’s so genuine, so kind and so determined to help others that you can’t help rooting for him. I can imagine Hitchers translating well into an indie movie with a cult soundtrack (like Warm Bodies). Would it be wishful thinking to say that I think Joseph Gordon Levitt would make the ideal Finn?

JGL. Yes, I am a fan, but he really WOULD be a good Finn.

JGL. Yes, I am a fan, but he really WOULD be a good Finn.

Thomas Darby, Finn’s selfish, abusive grandfather, was a horrible man, and remains so after death. I appreciated the fact that there was no bittersweet reconciliation between he and Finn (quite the opposite, in fact). When Thomas died, he was not automatically entitled to the virtual sainthood we tend to assign the deceased. Death does not mean automatic forgiveness, and I loved that McIntosh kept this in mind in writing Mr Darby Snr.
On the flipside, I wish that Lorena hadn’t been so hard to like. Even when we see her in a flashback, she’s eye-rollingly awful. Lorena had no qualms about belittling a tired waitress, and she continues to do so even when she is possessing that waitress’s body. The obvious chemistry between Finn and Summer is compounded by Lorena’s constant presence. Finn and Summer are never truly alone, and Lorena may take over Summer’s body at any time.
As Finn develops feelings for Summer, he becomes disillusioned with his late wife. Her selfishness becomes apparent, and he finds himself questioning their compatibility even when she was alive. I feel as though this unusual love triangle would have been so much more interesting and vastly more emotional if Lorena hadn’t been portrayed as a bit of a bitch. It made it an easy choice for Finn to let go of her and to acknowledge his feelings for Summer, which was lovely, but also felt a little bit too easy.

I hadn’t been sure how Fatima would react, but I’d guess it might go like that. The world was terrified. The dead were rising. It was Revelations, The Exorcist, the nightmares of our collective unconscious reaching out of the dark and grabbing our collective ankle. Fatima didn’t want to talk to her dead sister, because to her the emphasis was on dead, not sister.

Author Will McIntosh - doesn't he look like a lovely person?

Author Will McIntosh – click the image for his website.

Hitchers presents an unusual kind of apocalypse as the dead begin possessing the living with more and more permanency. As their control over their bodies diminishes, the living are faced with the loss of their functional lives. But is it really life, if you have to take over someone else’s body in order to be a part of the living world?

I came back to myself, probably for the very last time. I was a little drunk. That was a good thing; it took the edge off the terror I felt, contemplating this as my last day on Earth.

McIntosh’s representation of life after death is very confronting, and I thought about it long after I finished this book. Hitchers is an emotional exploration of death, and ultimately concludes that the dead no longer belong among the living. There is a kind of peace in this, but it’s also quite an eerie concept. While reading this book, I was close to tears on more than one occasion. Be warned – it’s an emotional read, and it might take you over for the time it takes you to finish it.

No prizes for guessing where I found Hitchers – visit Pulp Fiction Booksellers for your copy.

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