A corpse is resurrected and apprenticed to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for seven days. During the course of the week, he tries to remember how he died, accompanies Death on his daily round, and learns what it means to be undead. Printed editions: The Apprentice (UK, 1999); Damned If You Do (US, 2000); Death's Apprentice (Russia, 2003); L'Apprendista (Italy, 2010). There's also a sequel, The Journeyman, which you can find here.
"[The Apprentice] creates the happy effect of never hearing the same chord progression twice. It's amazingly easy to keep on reading, as the stories shift from naturalistic to philosophic to surreal. All of them are welcoming, and each invites the reader to participate in the act of discovery, not out of obsession or false intimacy, but through a free-flowing generosity that engages not only the heart but the mind."
"Tired of the same old novels
and authors? Fed up at how no one seems to have an original take on
anything any more? Given up on finding an inspiring and entertaining
novel? Well you need to read Gordon Houghton's The Apprentice,
one of the most original and blackly funny novels I have enjoyed in
a long while... [It] is the sort of novel that you stumble across every
so often that is so original that it screams out to be recommended.
I can see it as a TV drama, or as a film. Houghton has managed to tread
the line between horror, satire and humour so well that the book works
as all three, in a seemingly effortless mix of excellent characters
and intriguing situations. It's a brilliant book, one of the best handlings
of undead life that I have seen, and one which I heartily recommend."
"Part mystery, part tragic
love story and part comic corpse-coming-of-age story, Damned if You
Do succeeds expertly in each area it attempts, managing to provoke
tears, grins and more than a few episodes of heart-sinking dread. The
storyline itself pretends to be simple but isn't at all; in fact, many
times the point that you think Houghton is trying to make isn't what
you wind up with... Along the way we are treated to some deliciously
disturbing slapstick, a few horrific passages that would make Stephen
King blush (the chapter centering on asphyxiation is especially harrowing)
and some surprisingly insightful ruminations on the nature of loveand
the absolute devastation inflicted on human hearts caught up in a love
gone wrong... Gordon Houghton has created a rare bird with Damned
if You Do. Monty Python meets Clive Barker meets Oscar Wildean
unlikely matching of literary bedfellows that compliment rather than
compete. Wildly imaginative and deeply insightful, Damned if You
Do is a true gem."
"This is a book full of
dark humour and darker deeds. So sharply observed one assumes it was
written with a scythe rather than a pen... With tongue firmly in cheek
(or jawbone) Houghton brilliantly succeeds in bringing life to death
and death to life."
"Houghton's greatest accomplishment
is endearing his narrator to the reader through many similar fears and
concernslove, honesty and the importance of how you've lived your
life... The premise of the book screams "movie-ready," but thankfully
Houghton imbues it with a fuller, and sometimes bleaker, realization
of the places this story can go. The result is a quirky and intriguing
look at the sadly comedic possibility that the daily pains of life aren't
a hell of a lot better when we're six feet under."
second novel, The Apprentice, is such a pleasure to read... Death
will never seem quite so grim again."
"Excellent, poignant, sad, tasteful, honest to almost painful, black and bright."
"...a comic style reminiscent
of both Nick Hornby and Monty Python."
"A brash and often gruesomely
funny debut novel ... The author gets points for audacity, and for reinventing
the Four Horsemen as a perpetual vaudeville act."
"Houghton's tale combines
the wit of Neil Gaiman with the wry observations of Douglas Adams."
"Wacky, pointed, sinister
and satirical, [the book] moves at a brisk, grisly pace... Though Houghton's
first novel, The Dinner Party, has not been published in the US, his
sharp observations and spare, colorful prose make him a writer to watch."
"This book is funny,
touching, gruesome, and just plain weird, all at the same time... a
fun way to kill some time and get a good story under your belt."
writing is darkly humorous... Houghton has the same dry, dark humor
that Neil Gaiman displays in Good Omens. The book moves along nicely
with quick interludes between the sorrowful past and the deadly present."
"A magnificent book."
"Dieses Buch hat alles was man von guter, leichter und unterhaltsamer
aber nicht oberflächlicher Lektüre erwartet. Der Protagonist
schildert seine Erebnisse so ausführlich und mit soviel Sarkasmus...
man erfährt, wie es ist, ein Zombie zu sein. Gleichzeitig leidet
man mit ihm, wenn er an sein Leben zurückdenkt und ihm schließlich
wieder einfällt, wie er gestorben ist..."