by Kris Saknussemm
A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster
My agent recommends books to me all the time. This was one of them. To be honest, when I started reading ZANESVILLE I was a little spooked. There aren’t many writers I can say are clearly out of my league. Saknussemm is one of them.
This is speculative science fiction at its absolute finest. Hands down. Saknussemm writes with authority and a gleaming sense of style. This guy is clearly comfortable at the keyboard, and he really knows his stuff.
Now, I will admit that he and I share the same agent, but this should carry even more weight considering there’s probably a very good reason we’re both represented by the same person–our writing mannerisms are very similar. Kris also has been very helpful in guiding me toward my own personal style.
Okay, enough of the disclaimer. Now let’s chat like your average Joe Reader…
ZANESVILLE is strange. It begins by introducing a man with a half-meter penis who wakes up in a dystopian Central Park, where he encounters a myriad genetically altered/mutilated/enhanced people who claim to be fighting the all-powerful Vitessa corporation, a mega drug conglomerate that’s got the entire population of the world hooked on their yummy pharmaceuticals. Our well-slung hero has no memory of who he is, or what it is he’s supposed to do. A bizarre sequence of events sets him off on an improbable odyssey to find the answers to these questions.
Saknussemm pulls no punches. If you want a double-scoop of weird with some strange sauce drizzled all over the top, this is your book.
At times, the prose can get dense and even somewhat overwhelming. But this in no way impedes a reader familiar with the speculative terrain. Even so, I guarantee you’ve never read anything like this. You really will be taken on a very strange adventure.
If I were forced to come up with an elevator pitch, I would say ZANESVILLE was built on a framework not unlike the Blade Runner universe–except that practically everyone and everything is not at all what they seem. I’m serious, you’re going to encounter some weird shit in this book, but it all performs flawlessly.
ZANESVILLE challenged me, both as a reader and author. Once I caught on to the rhythm of the Saknussemm’s unique writing style, I was stupefied by how naturally the entire story unfolded. But you have to pay attention. Each paragraph (and I truly mean this) is packed with all sorts of interesting tidbits. It was like being led through a carnival sideshow spread across the entire country.
A good amount of suspension of disbelief is required, as well, as is a stomach for the very, very odd and at times borderline grotesque. Still, Saknussemm wields this power with skill and precision. There’s nothing in this book that doesn’t belong.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books I pull out each year and read again. Its that dense and valuable. I’m sure I could read it several times and catch something new.