The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One

At the Edge of Empire

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One

For Ages: 14 - 99
From the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling The Shape of Water comes the “utterly riveting” (Entertainment Weekly) tale of a murdered teen who is resurrected to walk the earth for more than a century.

May 7, 1896.

Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down by the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.

His second life will be nothing like his first.

Zebulon’s new existence begins as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show. From there he will be poked and prodded by a scientist obsessed with mastering the secrets of death. He will fight in the trenches of World War I. He will run from his nightmares—and from poverty—in Depression-era New York City. And he will become the companion of the most beautiful woman in Hollywood.

Love, hate, hope, and horror—Zebulon finds them. But will he ever find redemption?

“Fearlessly weaving gore, love, philosophy, and social justice issues into one sharp whole” (BCCB), The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire is the epic saga of what it means to be human in a world so often lacking in humanity.
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 656 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481411394 | 
  • October 2015 | 
  • Grades 9 and up | 
  • Lexile ® 960L
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One:

At the Edge of Empire

By Daniel Kraus

About the Book

What seventeen-year old Zebulon Finch craves most is death.

Dispossessed and alone, Chicago gangster Zebulon Finch is curiously resurrected from his murder in 1896 to endure a sequence of bizarre events while stumbling through significant eras in American history, desperate to make a worthy contribution to that history.

His dead and decaying body becomes a reflection of the worst that is around him. A self-proclaimed degenerate of legend, with few options open to him, Finch experiences atrocities and violations of human dignity within the larger context of historical realism in America in the early twentieth century. Whether exploited as a sideshow spectacle in a traveling medicine and freak show, or pawn to horrific human medical experimentation; whether desperately navigating the trenches of World War I, the onset of the Great Depression, or the frivolous world of Hollywood, Finch finds despair wherever he goes.

Occasionally humorous, often grotesque and horrifying, with wicked supporting characters, this is a heart-wrenching search for redemption from the corruption of human nature.

The end of Volume One gives us pause only to catch our breath until Kraus leads us once again into The Death and Life of Zebulon Finc see more

More Books from this Author

The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume Two
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch -- The Complete Confession

About the Author

Daniel Kraus
Photograph by Suzanne Plunkett

Daniel Kraus

Daniel Kraus is the acclaimed author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire; The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume Two: Empire Decayed; The Monster Variations; Rotter; and Scowler. With filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, he wrote Trollhunters. A writer, an editor, and a filmmaker, Daniel lives with his wife in Chicago. Visit him at