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The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley

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Teenage Book of the Month

The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley
Published by Bloomsbury, 2013

The Dead Men Stood Together is fashioned upon Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. A vagabond sailor is accompanied by his nephew, the narrator of the story who freely boards ship with him despite warnings that his uncle is, in fact, the devil.

During their voyage all horrors imaginable and unimaginable befall them. As the crew struggles to survive they are joined by an albatross who is welcomed as a sign of hope by the crew. But the boy’s uncle soon makes enemies of the captain and crew and, in frustration at their superstition, kills the albatross. The bird's death spirals a chain of the most awful events. As the ship sails on, madness and death ensue, and the boy and the crew face unthinkable horrors.

Priestley’s story has all the elements of the original poem: a nightmare voyage, a murder, and a ship encircled by the frozen sea. As for the unfortunate sailor; his plight consists of wandering the world, undead, wearing the dead albatross around his neck as a warning to others.

This gripping and haunting horror story has it all; it’s scary, dark, moving and even funny. Chris Priestley is a master storyteller and The Dead Men Stood Together has twists and turns in abundance to keep the reader on the edge.