Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead is the second young reader's novel in the Galaxy of Fear series.
Welcome to the city of the dead…
When Hoole, Tash, and Zak stop on Necropolis to look for a new starship, Zak immediately makes friends with the local kids. And he's willing to pull a crazy stunt—like going into the Necropolitan cemetery at midnight—just to prove he's as tough as they are.
The cemetery is silent as death and full of white, wriggling boneworms. And maybe Zak should have thought twice before accepting this dare. Just because the bodies are buried doesn't mean they're dead.
Aboard the Millennium Falcon, Zak Arranda awakens from a horrific nightmare in which he, in a version of his bedroom from Alderaan floating in space, witnesses the corpse of his mother outside his window, asking why he had "left [them] behind". His cries awaken his sister, Tash, and startle Han Solo, Chewbacca and DV-9 ("Deevee"). The nightmare awakens a sense of survivor's guilt in Zak.
At Hoole's insistence to find a new starship after the demise of the Lightrunner, the Arrandas and their uncle are dropped off by the Rebels on the planet Necropolis (in real life, a Greek word meaning "City of the Dead"). The planet is noted for its massive cemetery, as well as their traditions and superstitions regarding proper treatment of the dead, which includes physical burial (a practice stated by Deevee to have become outdated on many other worlds). Upon landing, the family is greeted by several Necropolitans dressed as mummies, although Zak is unnerved by this and shoves one of the greeters. They are introduced to the Master of Cerements, Pylum, as well as a Necropolitan named Kairn, who strikes up a quick friendship with Zak.
The Arrandas are led to a local hostel, but are intercepted by the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who announces to the denizens of Necropolis that he is seeking out Dr. Evanzan, who is wanted in 12 systems for illegal medical practices and the torture of his victims, among other crimes. Fett is especially suspicious, as a former target he had eliminated on Necropolis had somehow revived, and believed that Evanzan was responsible for this reappearance. Pylum instead insists that, rather than Evanzan, the dead are rising due to a curse placed centuries ago on the inhabitants of the planet. Kairn explains that Necropolis had been home to a witch named Sycorax, who claimed to be a necromancer. The disbelieving people of the planet cruelly killed her son to force her to prove her power, but the loss instead caused the death of Sycorax herself. With her dying breath, she is said to have cursed the Necropolitans to observe the rites of the dead, or suffer their vengeful return. He also adds that the power of Sycorax was reputedly so great that it was possible, even from beyond the grave, for her to resurrect the dead loved ones of someone who visited her tomb.
Zak is fascinated with the story, hoping to find a way to bring back his parents and apologize to them, but Tash disagrees with his belief in the possibility of the legends having any truth to them, and adamantly tells Zak they never left their parents behind. Zak suffers another nightmare, but is awakened in the middle of the night by Kairn and a group of local boys, who want Zak to join them. After climbing out of his room, Kairn informs Zak that he and the others want their new friend to prove his bravery by entering the cemetery of Necropolis, an action considered taboo as the cemetery is thought of as "sacred ground". They want Zak to go to the center of the graveyard, to the Crypt of the Ancients, and stand on one of the graves, marking it with a knife to prove he had been there. To dismiss their belief that he is scared and to test the legends, Zak agrees to the dare, taking a glowrod for light and Kairn's cloak for warmth. Upon reaching the center of the cemetery and the Crypt, Zak implores Sycorax to return his parents to life, but he is met with silence in spite of his heartfelt pleas.
As Zak goes on to complete the dare issued by his new friends, to his horror a corpse actually does rise from its grave and begins to attack him. After a second one also rises, Zak manages to flee from them, but becomes lost among the maze of headstones. He calls for help, and is answered by Kairn, but his shouts also attract Dr. Evanzan. Evanzan quickly grabs and poisons Kairn with cryptberries, a toxic fruit found in the cemetery. He attempts to do the same to Zak, but is prevented by Boba Fett, who tricks and executes the murdering criminal. The bounty hunter and Zak are found by Hoole, Tash, Pylum, and several of the Necropolitans, but Pylum is insistent that Evanzan and Kairn both be buried on Necropolis, against Boba Fett's inclination to take the body of Evanzan with him to collect his bounty. Fett agrees to it, but warns Pylum that if he cannot collect the bounty without a body, he will return. Zak tries to explain what he had seen, but is not believed by Tash or his uncle, and like the Necropolitans they assume Kairn ate the cryptberries on his own.
The next day Kairn and Evazan are given funerals and buried in the Necropolitan cemetery. Afterward, Hoole and the Arrandas go to find a new starship. However, as Zak decides to look at a ship that is not yet ready for sale, he witnesses the same Dr. Evanzan who was killed the night before rush off the ship and escape. Once again, his accounts fall on deaf ears. He begins to think that perhaps the legends and his nightmares are affecting his mind, but Zak is alarmed to discover strips of dead flesh on his window from the night before, from a rotting corpse he had thought he'd dreamed had tried to break into his room. He alerts Pylum, who tells Zak that he will send someone to him to discuss the matter. Despite this, Zak is waylaid by Tash, who has overheard part of a conversation between Hoole and Boba Fett, involving a "proposal". She insists that they follow Fett to gain more information about the Shi'ido, but, as they do, the siblings are separated. Tash is found by Boba Fett, and is coerced by him into revealing Zak's accounts of Evanzan's return. However, when Tash asks about her uncle, Fett will not tell her about their discussion, instructing her to mind her own business.
As Zak continues on, to his shock, he runs into Kairn, who is alive despite looking sickly and sluggish. Kairn recognizes Zak and confirms that he had in fact been dead; he agrees to show the astonished Zak the secret of his revival. Zak follows Kairn back to the cemetery and to Sycorax's tomb, hopeful now that the witch's power was real, but is horrified to learn that the truth is far more sinister: he is brought before the revived Dr. Evanzan, who orders Kairn to restrain Zak. Evanzan explains that he has developed a serum that can reanimated dead tissue, creating powerful zombies with superior strength, resistance to pain, and the penchant for obeying orders without question. The serum is activated once the corpse has been buried and exposed to boneworms, wormlike creatures that eat the bone marrow of bodies in the cemetery. The slime of the boneworms allows the serum to work, but a notable side effect is an uncontrollable twitch, and in the case of older corpses clumsiness and awkward movement. However, Evanzan proudly proclaims that with a fresh, minimally damaged corpse, his improved serum works far better, preserving the former memories of the body it's used on and allowing the zombie to speak, as seen with Kairn and himself. He intends to use Zak as his next subject, but without killing him: he injects Zak with both the serum and a diluted cryptberry juice to paralyze him, mimicking death.
Zak awakens in a coffin at his own funeral; after being gone for several hours, Deevee finds his "body" holding cryptberries, and it is assumed by all that he has actually poisoned himself. Despite his frantic efforts, Zak's body remains frozen, and he is buried in the Necropolitan cemetery. He begins to reminisce about his parents, and remembers his mother telling him that they will never be gone so long as Zak keeps them in his heart. As the boy realizes that he should have looked for them inside himself, Zak regains the ability to move, but this unfortunately happens as the boneworms begin to gnaw their way into his casket. Zak attempts to stop them, but is rescued by Deevee and Boba Fett. Having been sent by Hoole to pick up their purchased ship, Deevee was instead compelled to take the ship Zak had seen Evanzan on earlier: this turns out to have been Evanzan's own ship, The Shroud. Scanning the memory banks of the vehicle, a horrified Deevee realized what the doctor had been doing and that Zak had been buried alive. Surprised by Fett, Deevee convinced the bounty hunter to save Zak, as the boy knew where Evanzan was hiding and how he had returned from the dead.
Tash, meanwhile, cannot shake the feeling that Zak would never have killed himself, and insists to Hoole that they investigate whether or not Evanzan is really dead. Surprisingly, Hoole agrees to exhume the body, against the laws of the planet. However, at the cemetery, they are attacked by a hoard of zombies, barely escaping with their lives. At the cemetery gate, they are met by an angry mob, led by Pylum, who demands that Tash and Hoole be punished for their desecration. They are dragged back into the cemetery, now devoid of zombies, and thrown into the Crypt of Ancients, followed by Pylum. Here, the Master of Cerements is revealed to have been Evanzan's partner, having become disillusioned by the legend of Sycorax once he'd found the actual, frail corpse of the witch. He and Evanzan unleash the zombies on Hoole and Tash; despite their efforts, they are outnumbered and soon captured. Fortunately, Boba Fett, Zak, and Deevee arrive; Fett fights the zombies while Zak and Deevee, using the boneworm slime, are able to quickly concoct an antidote to the reanimation serum from Evanzan's own research. Evanzan attempts to stop them by sending Kairn over, but Zak manages to break through the doctor's mind control, getting Kairn to work with them to stop the zombies. Zak's friend takes the antidote and splashes it on each corpse, returning it to its original state as Fett holds them back. Kairn, unfortunately, is also splashed with the antidote as he takes down the last corpse, but Fett is able to take the very last of the liquid and use it on Evanzan, who dies for the final time. As they depart, they notice Pylum's own dead body at the foot of the stairs leading into the crypt; although Hoole posits that the Master of Cerements had died trying to open the heavy tomb door and had slipped down the stairs, Deevee tells them the door had been open, leading Hoole to state that perhaps Sycorax did have some power after all to punish those who disrespected the dead. Hoole asks Fett whether he will accept the Shi'ido's proposal (the nature of which is yet unknown), but Fett leaves, telling Hoole that "only a fool would take that job".The Arrandas and Hoole purchase The Shroud and, after reburying the dead and giving Necropolitans the antidote in case the reanimation serum was administered to others, Zak finally makes his peace with the memories of his parents, finding closure in what he has learned and experienced. Hoole insists on taking Zak to a medical facility, as it is unknown what the serum might have done to his nephew's body, but Zak laughs it off, telling Hoole that he's just fine. At the end, however, aboard their new starship, Zak's body gives an inexplicable twitch.
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This is a gallery of the different cover variations of Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead.