July 13th, 2013

A Purple Straw Hat

_American Elsewhere_, Robert Jackson Bennett (kindle)

I finished it. I now wish I hadn't. The original motivation for picking it up was optimism that I might make it to the Readercon Book Discussion on Thursday. Which I did not, because the kids have apparently finally adjusted back to Eastern Daylight Time and are staying up later as a result.

SPOILERS! If you googled in here, you should LEAVE RUN AAAAUUUUGGGHH The HORROR!

Main character is kind of a Lara Croft figure: ex-cop, wearing a tank top and shorts, carrying a gun, sneaking around in the woods and abandoned spaces, etc. Her parents moved a lot when she was young: her white father worked in the oil flats of Texas; her mother had a Hispanic name and committed suicide when Mona was seven. The book opens with Mona dealing with her father's death and effects. She wants his pristine Dodge Charger; she gets along with it a house left by her mother. This opens a window onto a life before marriage/kid that Mona had no clue about: Laura Alvarez was Dr. Alvarez and worked at a secret government lab in New Mexico.

Mona goes to see the house and claim it, but has trouble finding the town. Time has forgotten it, and it maintains a pristine, mid 20th century vibe -- right down to what is broadcast on radio and TV, not to mention the architecture, homophobia and other odds and ends. The lab that Wink was built to support is long closed, and the ruins are high up on Abertura (aperture, or opening) Mesa. Unsurprisingly, Laura was a key scientist at the lab who worked on creating the opening that the horrific monsters then stepped through. She was a meat puppet for main monster, Momma.

So: just to keep this straight. Crazy, schizophrenic, perfectionistic, excited to move but then depressed on arrival Hispanic mother commits suicide and decades later is resurrected and turns out to be crazy, schizophrenic, perfectionistic, excited to move and incredibly destructive and manipulative totally alien (and tentacled) mother who needs to be Put Down -- and all her family should go back where they came from.

Now, you might think, wow, really? But it is _so much worse than I have described_. I haven't mentioned Gracie, the groomed from birth, now teenaged "girlfriend" of Mr. First, the second offspring of Momma. Also, by not returning to Wink as Gracie suggests at the end, that poor little girl is still down in Lady Fish's home and I don't know how she's ever going to get somewhere safe. *sigh*

About the only good news is that Mona's daughter (in this universe, died in utero at 8ish months when Mona is in a car accident) from an alternate universe, kidnapped from alternate Mona to help bring Momma back to life in this universe, is actually returned to alternate Mona. So huge kudos to the author for that.

On the one hand, I do respect that the author took literally all that Biblical stuff about if you looked at the face of the deity, you would die: the mechanisms of death come up in several places, but notably with the arrival of Momma towards the end. However, the whole immigration thing, and then that the evil alien god is a goddess, well, I'm never touching anything by this guy again. (Also, Ganymede as a character suggests that the homophobia/horror of sexual minorities that appears in the novel is not _entirely_ further depiction of the evil conformity of mid 20th century White America and the people later on who would love to return to it. Also, Ganymede has some autistic characteristics. So, seriously. This one had to be the bad guy? _Really_ lame.)

Also, the "render" verbal tic continued. The "needless" thing was annoying. Glocks don't have safeties and I don't find it particularly plausible that you could trap Mona in the trunk of a recent model Honda [ETA: Wrong in two places! I put Toyota. Don't know why. My bad. I need an editor too.] Civic. I found the switch in and out of present tense narration to be awkward and jarring. YMMV.