book-reviews

American Elsewhere

by Robert Jackson Bennett

Rating: ★★★★

How to describe this? Imagine if some Lovecraftian Others came to Los Alamos and became obsessed with the American Dream. Imagine if a family drama of parental abandonment was crossed-over with titanic monster fights on the scale of Pacific Rim. If a cop trying to answer the mystery of her mother's suicide discovered that not only did she never know her mother (of course), not only does she have siblings she never met (yawn) and not only did her mother never die (a humdrum twist, even with the corpse), but her mother cannot really die, that her suicide shattered the sky, and all creation trembles where she walks.

This is really good. Bennett mixes in the right amount of explicit weirdness and reserved hints to keep things pleasingly strange without becoming frustratingly unpredictable. There is a coherent story here which makes sense without being boring. Sometimes, it must be said, the main character is a little too dumb -- did we really need the nature of the host-bodies to be spelled out so many times? Things are sometimes a little overtly blockbuster events -- there's even a car chase. But then, this is a blockbuster novel, a thrilling action-horror-scifi-fantasy-adventure about the relationships between mother and child, and it has no reason at all to be ashamed of what it is.