by Mike Johnson
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
About: When the economy tanks and the tourists stop coming, Keatown, on the coast of New Zealand somewhere, hit hard times, even the super rich who live in mansions overlooking the town. Then the strangers arrive. They act like dead people and simply move through the town heading south. Then more of them come, and more… Although these strangers, the driftdead, show no interest in human beings, their presence becomes overwhelming, and so the people of the town decide to build a wall against them.
The story is told through the eyes of several narrators, some of them children, as the town tries to chart its way through the crisis, and the invasion that sees their fragile society fragment. The story centres on the fate of the Baby, the first child born in Keatown for some years.
Driftdead unfolds like a dream, several dreams, as each character has their own sense of what the driftdead are. A beautiful and haunting tale that somehow leads us back to the dilemmas of the modern world.
Review and Interview for North and South – by Paul Little
“Driftdead is as canny a book about the uncanny as you would want to read. Past and future stream; our catastrophic present is registered with hallucinatory clarity: haunting characters from a small Aotearoan town speak the rhapsodies of their passing from a dreamland where beauty and horror orbit each other in the eye of an incorrigibly domestic storm. It is disturbing and salutary in equal measure; philosophically astute; a slow burn which generates terrific suspense. Mike Johnson has written a classic.” – Martin Edmond
“Johnson is an experienced and sensitive writer, able to conjure not just a dying landscape filled with shuffling, zombie-like creatures called the ‘driftdead’, but also the sounds they make and the dread which settles over this Kiwi dystopia, Keatown, like a fog…Spooky, philosophically playful – and hard to forget.”
– Jenny Nicholls, review published in the Waiheke Weekender, Dec 2020