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review 2015-10-02 16:45
needs an editor
American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett

Kept me interested enough to finish, which is why it gets three stars, but mostly I read it like an editor (as in persistently noting how it could be better), and I wonder if he had one. Ultimately the storytelling seemed sloppy and the story too outlandish, but given sufficient editing it could be really good. 

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review 2015-04-19 00:00
American Elsewhere
American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map, and in that little town are quiet streets lined with pretty houses that conceal the strangest things. Ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother’s home in Wink, New Mexico, and when she gets there, she finds that the people of Wink are very, very different.

Woo. Lovecraftian horror. This really reminded me of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, which, if you haven’t listened to before, you really ought to. I loved Mona -- she’s pragmatic, realistic, cynical, even in the face of some really weird shit going down. And while I get that Bennett is more literary than a lot of authors out there, I sort of wished that this book had been trimmed down a little -- I was really experiencing book fatigue by about page 500, but I knew if I put it down, I’d never pick it back up. This is not to say that the book isn’t fantastic -- it really is, and it may make it onto my favorites shelf. It was definitely a joyride.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-02-11 02:20
Orbit, the Ways I Love Thee
American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett
“Oh, propriety,” says Mrs Benjamin. “We’re always so concerned with propriety. Even in total madness, we still stick to our hierarchies and chains of command.”
 
This one feels like if the Fallout game series was written by someone whose idea of fun is to write urban Clthulu-esque horror/science fiction.   I want to devour it, marry it, and make it my book husband, right alongside John Dies @ the End.  I want them to be my sisterwife-husbands.
 
This is an amazing work of almost unparalleled excellence, and I am shocked that I had to find this one on my own.  Guys!  There needs to be something for people to know that this one is one of the best that the bizarre genre has to offer.  Count on Orbit, the publisher, to distribute yet another piece of genius written by a relative unknown that, BOOM, blows other things out of the water like everyone else is writing goddamned candy grams on starburst wrappers.
 
Our main character is Mona, an older, bad-ass woman (yay!) who used to be a police officer and married.  She... is no longer on both counts.  Oh, she also has a grudge against her deceased father and she unequivocally dislikes the hell out of him.
 
She reminds me of Cybil Bennett and I want her gun and intimidation skills now.  Hey - maybe the author's ACTUALLY Cybil Bennett?  ..C'mon, can't a girl dream?
 
It is common, but oft-misunderstood that she settled for Harry's bitch-ass. Girl please, Cybil was FAR too fly to settle down with someone whose gun skills were so... poorly.
 
Mona discovers that she has to reach a town that is supposedly non-existent on every map ever made, and must decide if she wants to stay and live there, all ready for discovering her late-mother's roots and if she can move on from her own personal strifes.  Little does she know that Lovecraft got a hold of the script that is her life and wrote some... interesting additions to her simple plan. 
 
Wink, the town in question, seems like(since we're talking about Fallout here) the black-and-white level that looks like a Leave it to Beaver episode gone fucky.  And we all know where THAT goes.
 
Meanwhile, some people who run a drug ring are encountering some real issues with the podunk desert town that they get their supply from - the odd rituals that they have to do in order to get the okay from their mysterious supplier are causing more and more of a strain on the men and women associated with the drug trafficking.  When something catastrophic occurs, they are forced to wonder if all of the insanity is really worth that sweet, sweet, easy money.
 
This is all really just touching the top layer to the weirdness.
 
So, what's REALLY going on here?
 
S-s-s-spoiillerrsss:

 

Yeah, Mona had a family that she didn't even know about - turns out Mona's mom was an Elder God from another realm of reality.  Kind of a real bummer for her. 

 

So, yeah, remember how I was bringing Lovecraft into this?  I wasn't fucking joking.

 

 

Even for an Elder God, Mona's mom was, incidentally, a complete douche-canoe, an eerily realized narcissist who had many children - all of which she dragged from their homeworld when she got restless, destroyed the joint, then abandoned them in Wink like a true party-girl.  She promised them that she would return one day and planned to never do just that, up and until she could move onto the next big thrill.  Turns out, the one thing she cannot stand is same-ness, so she destroyed a lot of shit in the past and lied to her children about it.

 

Oh, and her children are, just like her, nightmarish, writing worm-monsters that inhabit the bodies of hosts - people in Wink.  You following me on this?  There WILL be a test, that I can assure you of.

 

Here's your teacher!  He looks like the trust-worthy type!

The "children" all reside in some form in the town of Wink, all shades compared to the horror-enducing real form of "Mother" - a giant fucking abomination that is, incidentally, the kaiju-looking-motherfucker that emerged from the abandoned science laboratory of Wink.  And then there's the son that she thought that she had left to die back in their homeworld.  He... REALLY loves Mother, and has more power than her, and the only thing keeping him in check?  A disturbing area that he's kept in that is not unlike the sort of a shindig that the SCP gents could come up with.  It is with his stolen power that his siblings can be murdered, which they are.

 

Mother issues is the secret ingredient holding this cake together, and, boy, is it a sickly delicious one.  Mother was going to take them somewhere else, and someone got sick of waiting for Mother to come back.

 

Mona, it turns out, is the youngest sibling, for the simple fact that her mother, the strangely haunted woman who committed suicide when she was a kid, was actually Mother in human skin.   This monster decided to try on the skin of one of the scientists at the abandoned lab and rode it all the way into a marriage with Mona's douche-canoe father and then got bored. 

 

This brings us to: Mona.  Perpetual outsider, meant to take the bitch down a peg or two.  Cue different dimensions, gun fighting and detective work - interacting with her bizarre siblings and meeting the poor, poor people who (unintentionally) live with the fucking things.   Oh, those poor people - the end of the book is sort of like a Slayer/Dethklok music video, and they're the blood in the raining blood.

 

Anyway, we also get to meet one of my favorite omnipotent gods of all time, Mr. First.  Mr. First has a weakness for a cute girl who works at the diner and he also has a weakness for being Gene Kelly - therefore, quite the flair for the dramatic.

 

Really, Bennett, I can only want to date a fictional god-monster SO much before I become an actual Nightmarekin for him.

 

 

If this does not get turned into a movie somewhere down the line, then I lose all faith in this dimension's people.  I really mean it this time.

(spoiler show)

 

 

I mean, the cover looks... well...
 
It's sort of just dumb and ugly.  I think it's, ah, growing on me, but it looks stoopid, if I can be clear.  In spite of that, just buy this one if you're a fan of the strange.  Thank me later for the good, solid read.
 
Flaws?  Get  that weak shit out of here.  I want to live in Wink, bitch.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-10-26 16:39
American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett
American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett

SPOILERS AHEAD

23/10 - I've been reading this for seven days now, and it's continuing to baffle me - in a good way.

The town of Wink, New Mexico seems to be inhabited by some type of either aliens or supernatural beings who are hiding as humans. Mona Bright comes along looking for information about her mother, and for unexplained reasons (probably something to do with who, or what, her mother was, but it's not clear) she can see the different layers of reality that exist in Wink. Just as she arrives in town the townspeople (humans and 'aliens' alike) are holding a funeral for Mr Weringer, one of the 'aliens' as it turns out. The 'aliens' believe they cannot be harmed, cannot be murdered but strange guy in a dirty canvas suit and panama hat has some humans working for him, helping him murder the supposedly unmurderable. The murders are possibly the strangest part of the whole story, so far. The men - Norris, Dord, Dee, and Zimmerman, all run by Bolan are sent to retrieve a box, inside which they've very carefully placed, without touching, the top half of a rabbit's skull (the lower jaw is missing, don't ask me why). They then corner, capture or deliver the skull to their intended murder victim. They place the partial rabbit skull on the victim (still without touching it) or the victim touches it themselves when opening their surprise gift box. The men then make themselves scarce, because as soon as the victim has touched the skull the man in the canvas suit turns up and the screaming starts.

Because of Mona's ability to see what isn't there, and Laura's (her mother) complete personality change after her departure from Wink I'm getting the idea that Laura was one of these 'aliens' and that after seven years away from her home and siblings she could no longer take the separation, ending with her suicide. This means that Mona was supposed to be in Wink, that she's practically a local. Add the fact that she's an ex-cop makes it seem likely that she's going to be the one to solve the murders and stop the man in the panama hat. To be continued...

 

An alien invasion story, with a very unique twist! I think there might have even been some religious connotations in there. There was Mother, who had a baby, but he wasn't quite right so she kicked him out of the 'nest'. She then had five further children who all had their own special abilities and were told to never hurt each other, to obey the next oldest sibling, and that they could never die. The oldest sibling called himself Mr First and in the end, after a great battle with Mother, he died to save others. Being the agnostic/atheist that I am I had no idea of the religiousness incorporated into the story, but after having a nightmare vaguely related to the book I described some parts of the plot to my Mum and she said "Oh, that sounds like the bible story of how Lucifer fell from heaven." After that, religious bits kept poking their heads up through the rest of the book, once I'd been made aware of it I couldn't help but see it (kind of like Mona after she began to see the different layers of the town).

In summation, I really enjoyed the book and will definitely be on the lookout for other books by Bennett.

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review 2014-09-08 18:20
A World Elsewhere
A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany - Sigrid MacRae

But this crazy life has one thing to be said for it: one has so much to worry about that one ceases to worry at all.

I requested this book from NetGalley because I am always interested in reading about people who lived through WWII. This book stuck out for me because I hadn't yet read about an American living in Germany during the war. While this family did experience horrible hardships, this book doesn't really stand out from the other memoirs and biographies I've read because at times the book could be dry or very slow paced, it felt a bit disjointed with the excerpts of all the letters, and the ending felt rushed.

 

I really loved reading about Sigrid's mother and father's childhood. That, and the parts about Aimee taking care of the children in Germany, was one of the most interesting parts of the book. I did have a hard time with this book when it started to include more excerpts from Aimee and Heinrich's letters as the writing styles differed greatly between the letters and Sigrid's writing, so it felt a bit disjointed. The parts involving Heinrich serving during WWII could be very dry and very slow. It was hard to get through.

 

It was heartbreaking to read about what Aimee and her children went through after Heinrich's death. Those parts were fascinating and so well written that it felt like I was there with the family. Once they made it to America I felt like the ending came out of nowhere and felt rushed.


Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the galley.

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