Zero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare (Shock Totem)
Robby Asaro died a horrible death. Burnt to a crisp via the slow, agonizing procession of getting cooked in a conveyor belt style pizza oven in the restaurant/arcade where he was employed. That was the 1980s.
Decades later, Robby now finds himself as a literal ghost in the machine. An unembodied spirit that clings to the electrical currents of the equipment and games in the arcade, Robby finds a peaceful afterlife keeping the components of the machines in good working order. Fed up with the treatment of arcade regular Tiffany Park, Robby decides to use his spiritual powers to defend her from a bully. Completely unaware of the true power he possesses, an unstoppable series of violent events will be unleashed, forcing Tiffany and a handful of gamers to band together and survive the night.
Written by Adam Cesare, Zero Lives Remaining is a haunted house/creature feature/siege narrative mash up pre-loaded with copious amounts of nostalgia, violence, and 80s B-movie flair. Like much of his previous stories, Cesare has a way of writing characters with a lot of heart. Although Robby is the villain, sort of, empathy for him is unveiled with each passing beat. Melding the spirits of other characters, as well as a biological threat, there is always something that keeps the story from becoming cliche or obvious. Twists and turns come with each page and every death is a brutal display of artistry, making full use of the story’s surroundings.
Released by Shock Totem on paperback/eBook as well as one of the coolest limited hardbacks I’ve ever seen, Zero Lives Remaining is everything a kid that grew up on arcades and 80s cheesy horror flicks could want out of a novella. Cesare is on the top of his game and delivers possibly his best story yet by unleashing a fountain of energy to keep you turning pages and enough horror to make you think twice about touching another arcade game. (David Sharp)