“I took the second pill. Some relief but not what I’d anticipated. I took the third, overdosed, and that was it for me as a corporeal, living, and breathing human being upon this too sad earth.” So succumbs thirty-year-old unemployed writer and hopeless romantic Tom Astaire to an overdose in the opening pages of Michael Sauve’s newest novel-a bizarrely upbeat romp through the horrors of being phantasmal, OxyContin-addicted, and trapped in the post-industrial blight of small-town Ontario. As nineteenth-century specters like the historian Sir Edward Capp insist on Sault Sainte Marie’s glorious past, Tom and his fellow wraiths plot to avenge their border town’s full-blown opioid crisis and unwittingly unleash a chain of apocalyptic supernatural events that leads to imminent geological disaster and the calamitous ascendancy of a cretinous neo-Nazi group called the “Titans of Thor.” With its surreally deadpan depiction of a society at rock bottom, The Many Fentanyl Addicted Wraiths of Sault Sainte Marie is a startling and exuberant effusion on nostalgia, memory, and the hopes that outlive us.
CHELSEA PARKER’S “UNUSUALLY SOPHISTICATED prose line” is devoted not to her unexpected musical stardom, nor her eye goop condition that’s “padded the wallets of many an ear nose and throat man,” but only towards her on-again/off-again best friend: the winsome-yet-cavalier Stacey Jalapeno, recipient of all Chelsea’s cruellest meme-based zingers, yet also her most sublimated affections. Things get weird as the lifelong frenemies reach a rarified strata of fame and power. Rather than tiresome zombies or Forever 21 vampires, the action involves paranormal subjects including interdimensional travel, CERN bacchanals, and doppelgangers run amok. Grounding this madcap plot is the evolution of Chelsea’s relationship to Stacey—from doormat, to aggrieved litigant, to something eternally more complicated. As Chelsea is a less than wholly-reliable narrator, the real nature of her relationship to Stacey eventually emerges in a fashion that is clear to all but Chelsea herself.
From the Publisher’s Weekly starred review:
This time travel farce reads like a Philip K. Dick plot as channeled by a delirious Hunter S. Thompson. Sam McQuiggan is a divorced drunk earning minimum wage at the local Good Feels Fitness gym. Things can’t get worse, but they suddenly get strange when Sam is visited by a wayward alternate future version of himself. The two Sams hit it off, binging on booze, crack, and fast food. Reflecting on how their lives went so horribly wrong, the two hatch a crazed plan: they will travel back to a parallel past and save their younger self from becoming another deadbeat. But once back in 2001, high school Sam appears to be enjoying the love life they always dreamt of, and the future Sams may have just ruined it all by getting young Sam implicated in the accidental killing of his former best friend. As Sam continues to time-hop, causing irreparable damage everywhere he goes, he steadily realizes that it isn’t his past lives he needs to fix, but rather his present self. Sauve (The Apocalypse of Lloyd) crafts an inventive, lurid meditation on our relationship with technology and former mistakes. It’s frequently hilarious and, by the end, wrenchingly poignant. (Sept.)
In the year 2000, a man calling himself John Titor introduced himself to the Internet as a time traveler from the year 2036. He weaved a rich tale of being sent back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. Those who interacted with John were impressed by the depth and apparent realism of his story. In the years that followed select details would emerge to help further legitimize John Titor.
The question of whether or not John Titor was a real time traveler remains a subject of contentious debate. This book sets that question aside to examine several figures who may be responsible for the posts. Among the principle suspects are entertainment lawyer Larry Haber and alternate reality gaming pioneer Joseph Matheny. Key players involved in the John Titor phenomenon who are not suspected of authoring the story are also profiled. These include a PhD who filed a patent based on John Titor’s time machine schematics, an Internet sleuth called The Hoax Hunter who has worked to debunk the story, and even Art Bell, the legendary late night radio host who received several faxes from John Titor.
A clever but obnoxious teen (think Youth in Revolt’s Nick Twisp) is stuck in his parents’ basement during a uniquely literary yet crowd-pleasing apocalypse. It involves not zombies but a breakdown in general logic and order. Lloyd’s mother, a William Blake scholar, goes mad in a flurry of Blakean invective. Lloyd’s neighbour clips toenails on her lawn. An acting group believes a tribute to Dennis Hopper might save the world. Mayhem, murder and forced cuckolding are kept on the periphery while Lloyd’s picayune concerns over allotments of Diana Sauce are rendered in lavish detail. Gradually, the unchecked lust of the adolescent male turns out to be the primary horror. Lloyd narrates from hell, making the novel a morality play in which Lloyd’s selfishness and infidelities ultimately mire him in the pit for eternity. The book is a high-wire act blending ribald farce, horror, and heartfelt elegy, the emotional core of which is Lloyd’s sadness over lost friendships and lost youth, brought into painful focus by the nearing end.
Set against the pomposity of a small-town theatre community, The Wraith of Skrellman is the story of a nearly-delusional, completely-homeless 46-year-old troubadour’s ill-fated pursuit of a beautiful teenage actress, the resentment this breeds in her precocious classmate Dave String, and the wraith of Skrellman who haunts them all with his “pornographic play-by-play” and frequent acts of occult mischief.
Elegiac at times, downright smutty at others, it’s like The Virgin Suicides if that book were a little less masterpiece and a whole lot more teen sex romp. Beneath the populist slapstick exists a literary ode to lost youth, and a mordant satire of the social conservatism of small towns.