Monday, April 30, 2018


William Boyle's new novel isn't exactly a sequel to his previous one, Gravesend, but we do follow Amy, a small side character from that first novel, a party girl who formed a relationship with Gravesend's heroine, Alessandra. In The Lonely Witness she has cut herself off from her past life after Alessandra abandons her, and sequesters herself socially in her Brooklyn neighborhood, where she volunteers for a local Catholic church, providing in-home communion for the elderly.

Once again, Boyle provides us with a deep study of an emotionally lost character as she drifts through a detailed Brooklyn steeped in sadness. The novel is all about identity as Amy struggles to figure out her place in the world. She constantly believes that the life she's set up for herself as a helper to the ignored is the right one, but she keeps finding herself pulled in other directions. Old friends from the past and the people who inhabit her life presently all know different Amy's, but the real question that she has to ask herself is which one is the real her. You get the sense that Amy has hidden behind all of these personality facades all her life and now she's on a journey to realize who she truly is. Amy, as well as most of the other characters in the book, set about to leave their dead end lives, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Like Gravesend, this book is a slow novel and a bit meandering, but the reason why it doesn't fully succeed for me the way Gravesend did is because where that first novel switched back and forth between equally fascinating POV's, keeping it fresh, this one just focuses on one character, one that happens to be a hard nut to crack, so the pace and other issues were more evident. But the novel's conclusion as well as Boyle's keen-eyed observance really clicked with me.

The Lonely Witness come out tomorrow, May 1, and this is my review of an advanced copy that I received in exchange for an honest review!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

TRILLIUM by Jeff Lemire

"My father used to tell me that we were all made of stars. That each of us had one inside us and when we die, that light goes up and mixes with all the other stars. That way we never have to be alone. 'Cause no matter what happens, we all end up together."
Jeff Lemire continues to impress me with his complete control over the comic book medium and his refusal to be constrained by its conventions, limitations, and what people have come to expect. What he does here is assemble a romance between a scientist in the year 3797 who's looking for a cure to prevent a sentient virus know as The Caul from exterminating what's left of mankind and an explorer in 1921 searching for a secret Incan temple in the jungle. It's a mind-boggling, millennia-spanning love story that crosses galaxies, parallel universes, and the limits of time, while somehow still managing to be grounded in character. And it's all told with Lemire's usual expressive watercolor art and creative paneling that favors the story's structure. It's like Interstellar meets The Fountain, and thoroughly enjoyable.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

WOLF HUNT by Jeff Strand

If you're looking for a wild ride, you've come to the right place! Author Jeff Strand is known for his outrageous and bizarre horror comedy and this book is one of the best examples of what he can do. It follows two thumbbreaker thugs on an epic adventure through Florida as they try to transport a werewolf to a mysterious client.

George and Lou are great protagonists, who start out as your usual dickish thugs but quickly become lovable and memorable heroes that are trying to do what's right. And what's right is stopping a damn werewolf from slaughtering innocent people. Their constant bickering and increasingly apparent moral code really make them a pair to root for. You especially want to stand on their side when you see the crazy shit they're up against. The werewolf is one of the most nasty and sadistic villains I've read in a long time; unpredictable and ruthless, making any scene with him crackle with intensity.

And a Jeff Strand book is anything but boring. He writes with a manic urgency and a lightning pace that makes it hard to look away. One thing I'm always worried about when I start a book like this is that the comedy would weaken the impact of the horrific. But that's not the case here. Strand impressively finds the perfect balance, where I genuinely laughed out loud at times but it didn't lessen  the discomforting shock I felt at certain sequences, scenes that I'll remember for a while.

If you're looking for an ultra fast-paced, action-packed novel written by a natural, I would highly recommend this one!


Monday, April 16, 2018

GRAVESEND by William Boyle

I've heard many people refer to New York City as a "small town disguised as a big city." This novel really touches on that theme as we watch our main characters constantly circle each other as they all navigate their Brooklyn neighborhood and try not to get sucked under by it's pull of family and past sins. The novel has the soul of Pelecanos's best but with the nihilism of David Goodis at his most downhearted. It's definitely one of the more depressing novels I've read, with some scenes coming close to making me cry because of the sheer disappointment and desperation that the characters feel as well as the actions they take to escape their situations. It's a violent book, but not in guns, blood, and guts kind of a way, but it's an emotional violence that turned out to be even more affecting and relatable. A constant theme in Gravesend is mistaken perception and how that's wrecked by the truth. Whether it's in the way everyone has viewed Ray Boy Calabrese as one thing once he gets out of prison but he's actually something else, or the way Conway believes that he's capable of vengeance, but in truth he's just a coward, or the way that people see Alessandra as this beautiful actress who found success in Hollywood and has it all figured out but in truth it's just the opposite; every character gets a rude awakening that shatters that perception.

It's a slow novel that is heavy on character, but it's all told through Boyle's sharp, direct gaze that feels full of honesty and compassion. It was previously released by Broken River Books (the version I read) but is seeing a re-release in hardcover from Pegasus Books later this year.