Tag Archive: fiction


Straight up: you are going to get to the end of this book, and let out a little squeally gasp reserved for something slimy slithering down the back of your shirt.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Tony Bertauski has the uncanny ability to split and sustain a climax over a sequence of several events.  You’re hoping the heroine makes it out alive…the tension drops and immediately begins to rise…you’re hoping the heroine manages to save the rest…then the third time, you’re hoping the heroine has the ability to lay a whooping on that guy.

51pzT8Sl3ULIn Foreverland is Dead, Tony Bertauski creates a world that was first intimated in Annihilation of Foreverland.  While this place is alluded to, it is only a small element of that tale.  This world is entirely different, and lends a new meaning to ‘the cold, harsh world’.  Annihilation of Foreverland isn’t required reading to enjoy Foreverland is Dead and it doesn’t matter which you read first.  The plots are completely distinct and where the stories overlap, they are not hindered by too much or too little information.

While Annihilation of Foreverland ponders some philosophical ideas, Foreverland is Dead contemplates them with much greater earnestness.  Tony Bertauski presents concepts that have been the burden of philosophers since man began thinking.  He explores the meaning and complexity of self and reality. He asks who are we, and who we are at the same time.

What does it mean to ‘be’? Do we consist solely of our bodies? Or are we the thing inside? What comprises the borders of our selves?  Are we nothing more than the sum of our memories, and if so what becomes of us if our memories are lost?

What defines reality? In Annihilation of Foreverland, a character declaims, “Reality is what we perceive in our minds.”  The reply, “That is the definition of delusion.”  If reality is not what we perceive  (and how can we know what is strictly a mental perception or what is an accurate representation our senses give of the world around us?) then how do we determine reality?  Is this a dream, and if I wake from this dream, how do I know that I am not waking to the dream of my dreaming?

In the midst of this, Bertauski weaves a well-crafted tale of exploitation, selfishness and deceit.  Yet, Foreverland is Dead is a greater tale of strength and survival.  To find the way in a world that has undefined rules with very harsh consequences, when resources are scarce and not all are who or what they seem, somehow, six young girls manage to waken from that very dream.  What they awaken to, however, is a question of reality.

Bertauski infuses his stories with hard concepts and encourages, even challenges his readers to answer the question for themselves.  Not many authors can claim success at telling the story and being responsible for answering the questions raised.  I’m hoping there is another Foreverland story out there that might take up where that squeally gasp left off.

This is probably the best philosophical science fiction I’ve read in years. I’m looking toward Bertauski’s other series to draw me in like this one has.

There’s a limit to everything, and at some point you have to ask yourself if you are capable of stepping beyond that limit.  Are you capable of truly identifying reality and yourself?

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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.