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World-building defects impede Chandler Baker’s ‘This Is Not the End’

Lake Devereaux, 17, lost two beloved friends in a horrific accident, but she’s permitted to resurrect just one person, an agonizing choice complicated by a promise made years earlier, in Chandler Baker’s “This Is Not the End.”

Medical breakthroughs have made human resurrection possible. Regulations for population control provide that on their 18th birthday, each teen may elect to resurrect one dead person, at that time only. Resurrection is possible years after death, the resurrected person resuming life, free of flaws or disease, at the age they were when they died. Lake’s older brother, Matt, was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident four years ago. Embittered, he stopped trying to kill himself only when their parents secured Lake’s promise to resurrect him after a planned suicide. While her dead friends’ parents beg Lake to resurrect one of their children, Matt and her parents remind her she’s already committed. Then, with a boy she meets in a therapist’s waiting room, she uncovers secrets prompting hard questions about her friends, family, and herself (all evidently white). The novel’s best when exploring how resurrecting a loved one transforms individuals, families, and friends. The effect on the larger world remains unexplored. Odd, contradictory resurrection rules go unexplained. Could a resurrected person resurrect another person? Resurrection’s existed for decades yet seems to have effected only minor, local changes. These world-building defects impede what should be provocative explorations of disability and medical ethics.

Shallow execution mars the intriguing premise of “This Is Not the End.”

(Baker will speak in conversation with Christina Soontornvat and sign copies of her book starting at 6 p.m. Aug. 12 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information:

A collection of oddities

William Browning Spencer (“The Ocean and All Its Devices,” 2005), best known for his Lovecraft-ian tales, offers an intriguing collection of nine stories and one poem in “The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.”

In “The Tenth Muse,” an author, Marshall Harrison, is invited to interview the famously reclusive Morton Sky, whose only novel became an instant classic when it was published. Marshall’s family lived next door to Sky when he was a child, and he’s excited to speak with someone he so admired, but Marshall must confront the darkness in his own past, and Sky, desperate to write something new, will do anything for inspiration. The oddly sweet, fairy-tale flavored “Come Lurk With Me and Be My Love” features a man named Wally Bennett, who falls for a beautiful girl named Flower, and she’s not quite what she seems. Wally will follow her anywhere, even to her ancient father’s lair deep inside a mountain, bringing new meaning to “will do anything for love.” In the genuinely creepy “Penguins of the Apocalypse,” an alcoholic father is approached by Derrick Thorn, a “large pear-shaped man, smooth-faced, hairless as a cave salamander,” whose “face (is) oddly blurred.” Thorn offers up a bargain, setting off a chain of catastrophic events. Is he real or imagined? That’s for readers to decide. “Stone and the Librarian” is a fever dream that will delight fans of classic lit. A being called the Librarian, a shadowy figure from the future, insists society has been brought down because of a lack of empathy and the “absence of humanity” and that salvation lies only in works of great literature. A world of zeppelins and old-fashioned adventure awaits readers in “The Dappled Thing,” and Spencer gets back to his Lovecraft-ian roots in “How the Gods Bargain,” “Usurped,” and the poem “The Love Song of A. Alhazred Azathoth.” The title story is a terrifying and poignant tale of an unconventional therapist whose new patient awakens something in him, resulting in salvation for them both.

Spencer is a heck of a storyteller and has an undeniable way with words. This is a very readable collection of oddities from a pro, sure to please old fans and new readers alike.

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