This book is a more philosophical and less comical Ready Player One
. It has everything you'd expect from Darnielle - parent trouble in particular. The real genius lies in the overlays between the game the main character creates after trying to shoot himself and his psychological quirks, his guilt, and his thoughts about the future. Darnielle takes the post-apocalyptic trend and asks where it comes from. It's still fun, still geeky, but it has real social concern lying behind the game. Why do I get sad? Why do I hurt other people? Darnielle must've spent a good deal of time in some sort of care, or someone close to him did, because it feels real. The way he's able to inhabit the main character's hermetic viewpoints is eerie. I want to put this book on my favorites shelf, but I'm kind of scared to because it's really dark. It ends in a dark place. It's also like Denis Johnson's Train Dreams
in some ways, I guess in the starkness. The atmosphere the main character inhabits feels almost Western at times. He really is quite like the main character in The Shootist
too. I hope Darnielle continues to write both songs and novellas.