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What would you do if you were given everything you could possibly want or need in exchange for a little slice of yourself?

Tony Bertauski has written a novel that is one part Peter Pan and one part Matrix. He successfully combines these and elements of other SF works in an original and compelling plot that could be tomorrow’s news. TB’s dystopia is not some artificial alternate reality.  It’s the world we take for granted.   The story carries the feel of every day right down to the mundane rituals we all endure.  There is plenty of life sucks and then you die.  It’s just not the same.

The Annihilation of Foreverland isn’t a dystopian novel.  It’s more the story of a 21st century Dr. Moreau.  The island is a paradise, every want and need has been arranged for. Soon, however, the reader is confronted by something much more cold-blooded and malicious.

There are no good guys or bad guys in The Annihilation of Foreverland. There are only victims and benevolent predators.  From the first scene you sense something is off; too many things are happening to determine where things might go bad, you just know they’re going to go bad.

Bertauski challenges the reader to connect with his characters and see the world through their eyes.  Danny Boy knows there is a cold, harsh world out there somewhere.  He also knows whatever lies behind this magical playground is much colder, and much harsher.  What he doesn’t know is how or why.   While Danny Boy struggles to keep his internal world intact, we are thrust into a continuously shifting scene where we are compelled to seek answers even as they twist and slide into new more sordid motives.

What makes this novel appealing? The hero is everyman, handicapped by age and inexperience, disadvantaged by authority, most of all, hindered by the loss of his memory.  There is nothing for him before his arrival in Foreverland.  The setting is a dream come true for our hero, yet he has the courage to take that dream apart to see what makes it tick.

Tony Bertauski successfully splits the climax into two elements causing you to hold your breath not once, but twice. Danny Boy discovers the true nature of the evil being done while rescuing the others.  But what Danny Boy discovers, a supreme evil itself, is not, and has never been, the underlying reason for Foreverland.

Evil takes many forms and sometimes it takes no form at all.

Side Note:

***It’s not my job to tell you a story.  It’s my job to convince you to read the story for yourself.  In the end I don’t care if you agree with what I have to say, as long as you take the opportunity to decide whether a book has merit.  In any review I write, I’m hoping for a little, “What the hell is she talking about?” I’m hoping to give a hint at the treasure within. ***

There are no ghosts here.  There is only the house.  Therein lies the tale.

House of LeaveI’m not sure why I was under the impression that this was a horror novel.  It doesn’t try to be horror in the traditional sense.  When the climactic moments of the story occur halfway through, you stop thinking about the story and start thinking about the story, and the story fills me with questions.  Let’s talk about the story within the story shall we?

Meet Johnny Truant.  He has a story to tell, but how much do you say about this story before you address whether it’s real or it’s Johnny ‘s fabrication?  If you decide the story is a figment of Johnny’s imagination, how do you reconcile the intricacies of detail including footnotes, appendices, exhibits?  Can a psychotic break produce such a finely tuned “reality”?  Is it possible that some of it is real and some of it is Johnny?

Meet Will Navidson. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist. He has a house. His house has a yawning, chasm of an abyss in it.  This abyss swallows all light, all hope, all sanity. The abyss is nothing and consumes everything within it’s reach. It grows greater every moment, every day they remain.  Navidson records every single minute of what transpires.  Johnny tells us all about it.

Meet Zampano`.  He has spent years collecting the story of Will Navidson. He has detailed the events of the house.  He catalogs all the ‘details’ of the public response, the academic papers, the film critics’ reviews of Navidson’s ‘documentary’.  But Navidson hasn’t created a documentary, which implies evidence or proof of something.  He has simply recorded in the way he knew best, the events surrounding his house and the abyss within it.   Zampano` puts together all the details of the story of the house.  And Johnny tells the story …of Navidson.

Is Johnny having a psychotic break?  Has he invented an elaborate fiction about a house and a family and a gaping hole in reality?  It’s enough to understand that Johnny has his own issues, and as his story progresses, and here we’re referring to Johnny’s story and not the story Johnny is telling, we see his own gaping hole.  His childhood is littered with physical and emotional trauma.  His story illuminates the darkness he hides from himself.  He describes how his apartment continues to shrink around him, how his abyss continues to consume him and his efforts to keep that nothingness at bay.

Which is it? Johnny tells the story of Will Navidson’s house as discovered by Zampano` or Johnny spins a tale of darkness and obsession.  If  Navidson (and Zampano`) truly exist, why does Johnny include letters from his mother, describing her descent into schizophrenia, yet leaves other details, frequently alluded to, aside?

If we go with the psychotic break theory, and Navidson/Zampano’ are Johnny’s psychotic construct… what’s the deal with the footnotes and other academic detritus?  It almost sounds like the transcript of multiple visits to an “in-house” psychiatrist. “…You think I’m crazy? …well, let me tell a tale or two for you.”

The whole house thing…  Johnny thinks it all happened.  Doesn’t he?

What does it mean to be consumed by nothing?

 House of LeavesMark Z. Danielewski

My thanks to Eric and Cory.

 

laconiaLaconia:  I’ve heard your pipes, I’ve seen your tats, boobs and bellies.  Your piercings and your paint jobs.   May I be excused from Sturgis and Daytona, please?

Seriously though, when we first got to Weir’s Beach, my thought was, this is it?   This is all Laconia and presumably Sturgis and Daytona are about?   White tents with cheap crap?  People jam packed into narrow lanes between vendors and bikes, looking at, being looked at?  See my colors? See my pins? See my scars?  I’m sorry.  I’d really rather be riding.

That was my trip to Laconia.  Now about the rest of the weekend.

We rode up on Friday and about 40 miles outside of town my bike went dark in the middle lane of bumper to bumper traffic on the tollway.  I pushed it across two lanes to the side of the road when an ANG halfback stopped to let me through and conveniently blocked the other lane.  It was an electrical issue that I was sure of, and I hoped if I let it cool off, it would fire up.  Sadly, no.

There I sit leaning on my bike, waiting.  A bus full of little kids goes by, and they all turn down their windows and yell, “Hi! Biker Lady!!”  Ok, that was pretty cool. Then a small car with what is clearly a grandma, a mom, and a little girl goes by, and the little girl calls out, “Hi!”  The grandma says something to the little girl and she turns back and says, “Are you ok?!?”  Yep, I’m fine, and tell your grandma she’s pretty cool too.  Then another car goes by and the little girl leans out the window and says, “Hi, BlackJayne!!” and I wave.  Then the car is in the breakdown lane in front of me and I walk up to the window to say, “Hey, no, it’s all good…” when I look in the window I realize it’s my neighbor. “Hey, how’s it going? Wanna take me into town to buy a battery for my bike?”

How undignified can it get?

The battery seems to fix things, my riding partner shows up after a long complicated set of maneuvers to get back on the tollway below me and headed in the right direction. We get up to Laconia about 5 hours later than we were shooting for.  Go to the bar, grab some food, hit the rack.

Saturday, we checked the bike, seemed to be fine. Start up, run, no funkiness.  For logistical reasons, we take the other bike to Weir’s Beach.  We get a good parking spot, we have a chance to enjoy the scenery.  Five thousand bikes parked on the road, in the boardwalk, at the various lots (some lots up to 5 miles away) at any given time. Another couple thousand give or take, on their way in or on their way out.

Yippee.  Can I go home now?

Sunday we ride the Kancamagus (Cank-uh-MAY-gus) over to North Conway and plan to ride the Daniel Webster Highway back around.  We ride the Kank.  (A really nice ride if you’re ever in the area; car or bike, Winnebago, bicycle you name it. Nice ride.)  Get to North Conway stop for a drink and a stretch. The bike won’t start. Not only dead, but D-E-D dead. Can’t find a new battery. Get a trickle charger from the Harley dealership a mile up the road.

Ok, this part sounds much funnier than it was. We sat in Dunkin’ Donuts for an hour and a half and played cribbage while we charged the battery.  Oh, yeah, living the dream there.

Get the battery back in the bike. She fires right up. We get out on the street and I hear “Puh. Puh, puh-puh. Gasp….” Awesome.  I push it into the Circle K parking lot.  We talk about our options, don’t really like any of them.  Cram all our shit into the other bike, go in and ask the manager politely, “Please do not tow my bike, I promise I will be back for it in the morning.”

We ride back to the hotel, which is about 40 miles away, back over the Kancamagus.  It rains. Hard. The road is still windy-twisty and beautiful. And wet. An hour and a half later, we’re showered, and in the bar again, looking forlornly at the menu which is not in the restaurant where we had planned to eat.

Our best alternative is to rent a truck. We have no vehicle to pull a trailer.  There is no service dealer anywhere within 100 miles, and truly? I want my guy to work on my bike, so I know what my problem is.  Not what some guy with HD plastered on his shirt wants to tell me.  I call work, “Sorry can’t be there tomorrow, I’m busy.”

Monday we get up, we ride the bike crammed full of ALL our stuff now that we’ve checked out, back across the Kancamagus.  Bright sunshine, twisty-windy, fresh air ..…small RV…..  young male moose, trotting across the road.… (Please god, please god, please god… do not let the RV hit the moose, it will mean bad things for all of us, and I have enough bad things going on right now, I’d like not to add a moose to my problems.)  I’m not sure how late it was before he saw the moose, but the moose definitely saw him and was happy to keep on moving before we all got there.

Pick up the truck, which is big enough for both bikes, so we put the one on, drive to get the other. Put the battery back in it (having trickle charged it over night) get it lined up to go up the ramp and in the truck. ….Last chance….  …breathe… fire it up and goose it just enough to keep the ka-pow from starting. Hit the ramp straight and enough speed to get it over the hump at the top. Screech to a stop narrowly avoiding the first bike. “Gasp, puh, puh-puh..” …sigh…  (I go back in the Circle K and tell the nice manager, “I have taken my bike, it has not been stolen, and thank you very much for your consideration of my plight.”)

We drive it all the way back to my guy.  He’s expecting me, having talked to me while I was sitting on the highway, and again as we came into the city. We take both bikes off the back, he keeps mine, the other heads to the U-haul place and I follow in the truck.   We drop the truck off, I pretend I wasn’t driving since I wasn’t on the list.  Something about tickets and suspended licenses and like that.  We again pack the last of our crap into the other bike, and ride back to the house.

I have never been so glad to go to work the day after a long weekend.

In the end, my guy replaced a fried voltage regulator and rewired some accessories that had been put on over the winter.  I really like my guy.

This is a trip I will probably remember for the rest of my life.  But not because I went to Laconia.