Dan Chaon honed his catchy thriller-esque atmosphere into a tense road novel reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s off-kilter weirdness and soft-dystopian Straw Dogs-style manhunts.
An addictive read with dark undertones establishing the prescient consequences of social media, drugs, cloning, the morals of biological and artificial relations and other deep and relevant stuff. Yet, the close first person perspective focuses the lens on a flawed hero, whose descent into the Inferno is appropriately brutal. Somehow manages to come off as heartfelt amid the bleak and blasted remains of a landscape fertilized by American corpses.
So far, I’ve enjoyed the short stories of Chaon more than the novels.
The novels stick with you, though. He might be compared to Lorrie Moore for the crystalline style, but his depiction of American life verges on disturbing at times, and reveals the undercurrent of our repressed age, bringing to mind Brian Evenson. Overall, I look forward to Chaon’s further works, but wish he would stick to original short stories. It could be my jaded mindset, but his novels are only striking at moments, and largely reside in the believable territory of literary fiction’s tested waters. They are not exactly safe, but they do not startle in the way his stories do.
The interwoven storylines in this one are slow-paced, forceful and focused on characters wrestling with familial strain, and ties that link their pasts, towing the significant baggage into the present. There were a few moments when upfront communication would have relieved the aching buried psychological secrets of their weight, but literary characters are usually tight-lipped during those brief chances. I think anyone boasting experience with the foster system will find much to like here, and initiates of this author will gain from the easy and effective style.
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