There’s something to be said for reinventing the wheel, or so the publication of “The Returned,’’ the much-talked about first novel by North Carolina writer Jason Mott, would suggest. Without any sort of apocalyptic events to herald them, the dead begin to show up around the world and create an atmosphere that morphs from wonder to dismay and joy-tinged sorrow and sorrowful joy to amazement, causing disruption through many layers of society from political to military to religious as well as making for rifts in the fabric of family and personal relations.
If you read this description without Mott’s name attached to it you would say: Ah, a newly found novel by the late Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago. Certainly Saramago’s novels “Blindness’’ and “Death With Interruptions’’ both proceed in almost exactly this fashion. From the premise to the unfolding of the results of the premise, with, in one novel, blindness striking almost the entire population of an unnamed nation or, in the other, a nation suddenly subject to a long spell in which the sick and the aging simply do not die.