Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle.

I have described this novel to friends as simply odd and somewhat difficult to describe. It follows Sean Phillips, the creator of Trace Italian, a mail-based, turn-by-turn, mail in strategy game. Trace Italian was created as Sean lay in a hospital, recovering from a disfiguring wound. He created this massive, post-apocalyptic world to help cope with the pain during his recuperation and now makes a living from it and other, similar games. As we learn more about Sean and his impressive and well-conceived game, we also learn of a young couple that became obsessed with the game. As they tried to live the game in real life, one of them dies and Sean must navigate both their obsessions and his own.

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, digital, and intertwined, it is fascinating to read of a character that is incredibly isolated and whose primary social interaction is through a text-base, mail-in, role playing game. Wolf in White Van is thought provoking exploration of a character that is defined by his isolation and his obsessions. Darnielle’s excellent job of pacing, careful revelations, and ambiguity are an interesting juxtaposition of the straightforward style. Wolf in White Van is an odd, dark look at nerdom, and some elements will not be to everyone’s taste. However, the writing and treatment of Sean Phillips makes this a worthwhile and remarkable read. 

As a side note, this cover is simply brilliant, both in its own right and how it ties into the novel itself. 

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