Here’s a short list of things that this book is about:
- Kids somehow appear from somewhere and make their parents out of appliances and cutlery
- Everyone has a “death day” for some reason and it’s meticulously well-planned
- There’s a place called the Bear Park
- All the bears have weird human baby faces
- Senior citizens are the bad guys
- There’s also: talking jars called Ink Gods, Birdkill Eve, name plates, a book of forks, deceptorists, subnormals, gazettes, gleep glorps and floobsters.
- (jk about the gleep glorps and floobsters, but the rest is totally real)
Every other page introduces some new concept or idea to this world, and expects the reader to immediately understand it. The problem is that you can’t even build on any knowledge you glean from it because then author Rob Davis piles on a hundred more weird ideas. Here’s a sample sentence:
“Nothing is new. Killing another band member’s dad, switching on the summer mines out of season, even jumping the fence into the Black Wood”.
Doesn’t seem too confusing, right?
Except in this world:
- “Killing” and “death” are an intrinsic part of the world and are dictated by certain rules and regulations that haven’t been made clear, even though a large portion of the book taking place in some kind of morbid school that teaches subjects like death-o-nomics.
- “Band” refers not to a music group but a crew of greasy guys who are rebelling against an unclear motive.
- “Dad” refers to not an actual person but like a crazy race car. People race their dads.
- “Summer mines” are something that exists for some reason.
- Is there a difference between the Black Wood and the Bear Park? Because earlier in the book two of the characters were in the Black Wood but it was full of bears. With baby faces.
There’s a character named Castro Smith who is actually some kind of secret genius (the “Seemingly Profound Fool” trope). Even though he has some kind of learning disability he apparently knows exactly how this world works (hey, at least one of us does).
He has a tendency to say strange “theories” like this:
“Maybe they’re bears. But bears aren’t meant to exist…a bear is just an old word for the woods or for anything that lives in the woods…maybe bears were things before they were words…before there were woods maybe there were bears…they smell like paint…like black pots of tar-brushed and roof-shushed silent night with the lids on tight…”
W H A T
Going on and on about these contrived details won’t help, because there’s way too many of them that continue to perpetually pop up throughout the book. Just when you get used to the idea of a weather clock being prime minister you get told that there are people called poster pasters who love their bikes more than anything and also have a special whistle. There’s not much to be gained from reading the first novel in this series, The Motherless Oven, as it’s just more of the same only told from a different character’s point of view.
Speaking of characters, these are some of the most unlikable protagonists since Phillip Pullman‘s Golden Compass books. Everyone is cold and mean and self-serving, and that includes main character Vera Pike. Not one person has any semblance of a personality, and the lack of humor makes the whole affair extremely temporaneous. Why should we care at all about this weird world and whether or not the fork is a god?
This is the second part of a trilogy, but it’s hard to imagine any sort of satisfying ending emerging in the conclusion. In all likelihood it’ll be just as nonsensical as everything that preceded it! Any reader could pull out some crazy words and it would be as realistic as what Rob Davis could do.
Look, I’m gonna give it a try right now:
“Ok, so, turns out the birds were sent by the bears to tell the forks to turn the dads into cars and then everyone realized that the only way to freedom was to off themselves.”
Hurray, I did it! Now Rob Davis doesn’t have to make another one of these.
The one thing that can be lauded is the art. Stylistically it’s a cross between Hieronymous Bosch, Dr. Seuss, and Tim Burton. It can be a little macabre at times, but it’s well drawn and really the only sensible part of this novel.
Final Grade: D