Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
After the death of Nate’s parents, he takes the truck he inherited to the cabin they left him in order to take some time to grieve. The drive to the cabin lets us get to know Nate and his family history; it should come as no surprise it is gut wrenching stuff from this author. If possible, Nate’s night is about to become a whole lot worse, or better–at least interesting.
When he encounters the man and girl at his cabin, the series of events are strange. The main question I think anyone would have is, why does Nate go along with everything happening? There is his curiosity, of course. He is a journalist, so it’s in his nature to dig and want information. There is shock, and sometimes you just go along with what is going on around you and do what you’re told. Sometimes when you have nothing to lose, you make different decisions than you normally would. But if he thought his life was toast before, it is really crispy now, and there is no turning back into bread ever again (read the book.)
The thing is, even in a book full of strange and impossible things, these characters are more real than the characters in most stories. Art is that child that is too knowing, yet is still excited about every new thing. Nate is that man who has lost faith in the world and himself, but he can still surprise himself. Alex is the man who is resurrected from the ashes of his own life with a new purpose. The forced intimacy of them staying alone in an isolated place, and then being on the run together, works well. The slow burn finally gets kindled when everything snaps into place–when we know they are there by choice, rather than just letting events carry them. The author set this book in the 1990’s, so the use of political events, news, and pop culture help keep it grounded in the period.
The story is told from Nate’s POV, so it’s easy to sympathize with his emotions: as he gets attached to Alex and Artemis Darth Vader, as he has his existential crisis, as he experiences things so foreign to the way his neat ordered world was before. I laughed and cried reading this. There are times we do get to see other points of view that I enjoyed and added to the emotional impact of what was happening. It’s very difficult to review without spoilers, and really her name should tell you all you need to know. The genius of this book is not that I didn’t see what was happening beforehand–it is that I was still shocked and horrified when things happened. Then, I had no idea how the story was going to get out of the walls it had built; don’t worry, it walks through them.
The ending does go to an omnipotent observer POV before switching back to Nate’s POV and that annoyed me for a second. The epilogue was the best ending I could have hoped for, the one that made sense. There is a lot to be said for people being fearful of those different, of fear turning to violence, but there is more to be said for love and hope, of building the family you choose. What sets it apart from other science fiction in a similar vein, is that it focuses on the heart and mind of the characters, so this is not hard science fiction, more of a character study. I would recommend it.
The cover art is by Reese Dante and has a “so above, so below” feel that works well for the subject matter and the idea of how we are all stardust.
Expected publication: October 26th 2018 by TJ Klune
Original Title The Bones Beneath My Skin
Edition Language English
setting Oregon (United States)