Thought 1: Wow. What was that?
Thought 2: How the hell am I going to write a review on this book?
Medium Talent is a book of layers: layers of time, layers of character, layers of plot. It begins in media res (“in the middle of things” for you non-Latin speakers), at the start of the climax of the book, then hops back and forth through time to tell the story. The apocalypse happened three years ago and the world has settled into a new “normal.” Relief Zones, under the purview of a pseudo-governmental organization called the Supply Org, operate to save the last of humanity. Sadly, even the Apocalypse will not unseat the 1%-ers of this world. The 1% have found their niche in the new world order and have retained all the privileges that money and power can buy steal.
Main character Wendy Wicker lives in the Key West Relief Zone. In fact, Wendy lives in the Hemingway House, a place I visited last year. In the past three years, her post-apocalyptic family of fifty souls has dwindled to five and she’s well on the way to reducing that number even further. It’s a Hobbesian life in the Zone, which is to say…” continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Author West peels back the layers of time and plot and character slowly, and in such a way as to keep the reader continually off-balance. At first, I found this annoying, but slowly—as the truth about Wendy was revealed–I came to realize this technique was deliberate. Forbes West was doing his damndest to sabotage my normal reading experience. That feeling of helplessness and disorientation was exactly what I was supposed to be experiencing.
West is clearly a Hemingway fan and I’m sure any Freudian-trained psychoanalyst worth his cocaine could make short work of the relationship between Wendy Wicker, Forbes West, and Hemingway in 1934…
As I’ve noted before on this blog, I’m on a mission to read all of the Apocalypse Weird novels, so I like to do a little compare and contrast. West has some great unique details in Medium Talent, like the cinnamon smell of the undead and sea creatures that inhabit the waters off the Key West. This is also the first AW novel that tells the story exclusively from the POV of the bad guy…who also might be the good guy—did I mention it was disorienting?
If you’ve enjoyed the Apocalypse Weird novels to date (and what does it say about you as a person if you enjoy a book about the disintegration of society?), pick up the oxymoronically-titled Medium Talent for a unique take on the end of the world.
Be warned: you won’t like it—and that’s the point.
David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception, coming in May 2015.