The cover of Sean Beaudoin’s Fade to Blue suggests it’s a book for Goth girls who are maybe into comics. This is misleading. Fade to Blue is a book partly about a Goth girl who is maybe into comics, but that's not the same thing at all. (See last months' mrchompchomp entry.)
So don't go browsing about the bookstore looking at the cover and thinking "this book is simply not intended for me where is the zombie section anyway?" Because you'll be missing out. First of all the Goth girl, Sophie Blue, is pretty cool. Funny, resourceful, a talented artist, wears fishnets and combat boots to gym class, tough, bitter and sarcastic but in a charming way. She's really not bad for a guy to hang out with for a good chunk of the story. Besides, this book is about much more than Sophie and her issues.
One of Sophie's major issues is that she keeps getting run over by an ice cream truck. Somehow it doesn't kill her. She'd think it was a dream, but it leaves some pretty nasty ice-cream-truck-grill shaped bruises. No one else can see the ice cream truck. But they can all see the bruises. It's a problem. Her father has vanished, possibly abducted, and that has something to do with the ice cream truck. There's a sexy nurse, too, who regularly shows up, also ice-cream-truck-related. And there are streams of ones and zeros that enter Sophie’s head. You can guess what they might be related to.
Ben Fade, super successful basketball star and school hero, is seeing ones and zeros as well. It's not making him feel too well.
Nearly everyone at Sophie and Ben's high school, from the hot girls mostly named Kirsty to the basketball playing thugs to the evil gym teacher to the evil janitor, keeps drinking a hip beverage called Sour White. So does everyone in town. Anyone not at the high school works at the town’s bio-pharmaceutical lab. Eventually, all of this comes together to help explain the disappearance of Sophie’s father. And the appearance of the evil ice cream truck.
I'm not sure how you would, but if you think you can see where all of this is headed, you're wrong. Fade to Blue starts throwing surprises at the first turn of the page, and doesn't let up until the end. Past the end, really, as the book laughs, literally, at the idea of closure (you can check it's appendix). And for all of its quirkiness, all of its satire, all of its over-the-top twists and turns, it doesn't shy away from real pain, and from the fact that people can do truly evil things, and how much it would suck if those people were related to you.
In short, Fade to Blue is a complete trip. It does cartwheels with reality and then back-flips. (Did I mention the cheerleaders?) It will make you question life and death and the difference between the two. (Did I mention the zombies?) It's written in fast-paced prose so packed with cultural references that Kant and boner–humor have no choice but to hang out in the same paragraph together. (Did I mention the inspirational posters?)
If you already know you like trippy books, dive in and enjoy the ride. If you want more stuff to mess with your mind, you can try one of these: Ubik, Philip K. Dick; V, Thomas Pynchon; Vurt, Jeff Noon; Girl in Landscape, Jonathan Lethem; Geek Love, Katherine Dunn; The Trial, Franz Kafka.
Reality bids you farewell.
Cross-posted at Critique de Mr Chompchomp
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