I liked John Dies at the End, and I loooved This Book is Full of Spiders, so I was very excited to get David Wong’s new book for Christmas. It is, as expected, bonkers and great. I think he’s growing up a little. This book is a little less Beavis & Butthead and a little more…I don’t know…Christopher Moore? There’s a bigger story, and a little less teenage boy nonsense, but there’s still a lot of humor, and still a lot of me pausing and thinking “this man’s brain is a very weird place.”
In the not-too-distant future, a bunch of millionaires, criminals, entrepreneurs, and adventure-seekers have built their own city (Tabula Ra$a) in the desert. No rules, no police -everything goes by the almighty dollar. It’s like Vegas without the tourists. Our heroine, Zoey Ashe, is dropped into this hive of scum and villainy against her will. She lives with her mother in a trailer park, has a cat named Stench Machine, and works in a coffee shop. Her father, the recently-deceased Arthur Livingston, was one of the richest men in Tabula Ra$a. She’d never wanted anything to do with him, but he got himself blown up in a mysterious warehouse explosion and now she’s the only one who can open his vault. Multiple competing contracts are put out for her head (presumably the part needed to open the vault), and it’s a race to see who can get to her first. There aren’t exactly good guys, but there are less-bad guys who worked for her father.
The story moves fast, with an excellent and interesting cast of characters. Plus, I like Zoey. Judging from the books I’ve read before and after this one, that’s a bit unusual. She’s fun and smart and scared and sensible and freaked out and uncertain, and feels like what a real person would be feeling in crazy circumstances.
There’s some pretty sharp social commentary going on among the madness, with Zoey speaking up for all the people in the line of fire who aren’t rich enough to hire their own army. Also, Wong draws Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/etc. to a terrifying next generation, where everyone wears camera-equipped glasses and life is one big reality show. The Big Bad travels with his own camera crew, projecting his evil schemes onto the sides of buildings. Seeing Zoey running for her life, with nowhere to hide because everything is filmed and no one to help her because the bystanders are just there to watch the show, sounds a little too alarmingly plausible.
Ridiculous bad guys, a great underdog heroine, lovingly droolworthy descriptions of snacks, explosions, technology, robot monster henchmen, cats – this book has it all! Plus, the author’s note at the end says we may get more Zoey in the future, and definitely more John and David! Sign me up.