Attention Everybody! God is temporarily breaking down the barrier between the living and the dead. And that’s not all! The Almighty is hosting the angelload of all social events – Speed Dating With the Dead! I shall participate! Here I go…..
*** Sitting on a cloud. Waiting for my date to materialize. Waiting… Waiting…
There she is! Jack pot! It’s Marilyn Monroe! I must be on cloud nine! Gee Marilyn, your halo is almost as golden as your hair! My earthly beauty will never match your heavenly brilliance. Talk-talk-talk/Listen-listen-listen . Uh oh., our time is almost up, the cloud is about to get me a new date. Hey Marylin I enjoyed our….
Lizzy Borden, uh…h-how interesting, you even have a “ghost axe”. Isn’t that, uh, something. S-shouldn’t you be part of the speed dating group that is being managed by, well, the people “downstairs”? You’re shaking your head “no”. Hmm awkward chat/awkward chat/awkward chat. Well gotta go, our time is up…
Wow, Amelia Earhart! Nice to meet you! What’s that? You never died? You flew your plane into the clouds and broke through Heaven’s door, and you’ve been living among the angels ever since? Ha Ha Ha! What a way to cheat death! Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!
Yeah so, regarding all those clouds and “dates”; none of that has anything to do with Scott Nicholson’s book Speed Dating With the Dead. The novel has nothing to do with dating; speedy or slow, ethereal or substantive – none of that stuff. It is, however, about a paranormal convention that convenes at a hotel that is supposedly a hot spot for ghostly activities. Turns out, this group of paranormal thrill seekers gets more than they bargained for. They are expecting ghosts. They will get demons instead. The highly creative title comes from the observations of one of the ghost tour leaders, “Roach.” Roach suspects that the hotel is populated with entities that are far more dangerous than the residual spirit. He is a trained demonologist and he frowns upon amateurs who trifle with paranormal sightings as if they were some kind of amusement park attractions. Thus, he terms this activity “Speed Dating With The Dead.”
From the book:
The Roach nodded while ignoring her. Paranormal tourism had all the inherent risk factors of traditional outdoor adventuring, with the same fear and response and endorphin rush. The Roach frowned upon speed dating with the dead, but he figured he could best serve on the front lines where meta-physical bullets flew hot and fast
The two main characters are Digger Wilson and his teenager daughter Kendra. Digger is the head of Spirit Seekers International and he arranges the paranormal tours at White Horse Inn. He has a special interest in this hotel. It is rumored to house several apparitions, but he is mainly interested in making contact with one specific specter – the spirit of his late wife Beth. On her deathbed, she promised to reunite with him at The White Horse Inn, the same hotel where they had celebrated their second honeymoon.
There are so many characters in this novel. The perspective is constantly changing and this jumping back and forth between characters is kind of like speed dating. This is one of Nicholson’s styles. I have read five of his books and in all of them the story unfolds within the viewpoints of several characters. On the one hand, this method widens the story. Readers come to understand different story angles and they meet some very interesting fictional people. However, it can get tedious trying to keep track of who is who.
Nicholson can be considered a craftsman of the modern ghost story. As much as I like the gothic tradition, this is not Nicholson. He’s not about prolonged descriptive atmosphere and hidden symbolism. His scares march to a faster beat. He’s more about scenarios such as – You’re locked in the basement – There is no light – Sparks ignite from a broken down furnace – There are demonic things in there with you – people are panicking. Look for this and other similar scenarios in Speed Dating With the Dead, a book that has the flair of modern horror films. It is The Conjuring and/or Insidious put into words.
As for the “whys and wherefores;” I’m not sure they exist. What is the meaning of the story? I have no idea. There is some kind of revelation at the end that makes no sense to me. Parts of the story seem missing. Maybe the demons ate them, I don’t know. But it is a scary book. The situations these ghost hunters get into when they break off into small groups and tour the many rooms and floors – wow! Things might not always hold up plotwise, but there are some scary things hiding in the dark corners of this story.