Here we go, folks. Winterland, the newest, and very surreal, novella release by Mike Duran.
I reviewed Mike Duran's first novel, The Resurrection, and you can see here how I felt about it. One thing I didn't say in that review is that it wasn't entirely what I expected from Mike. Yes it was dark, and creepy (Mr. Cellophane....*shiver*) and definitely a supernatural thriller, but I expected the style of writing to be a little different. I don't know how to explain it. The Resurrection read like something written by Frank Peretti or Dean Koontz. Scary, but, um, normal?
Winterland is more like what I expected from him. Surreal. Mike describes it as "The Wizard of Oz meets Dante's Inferno." It also made me think a little bit of Alice in Wonderland with Stephen King a la Duma Key hiding in the corner.
I know, you are shaking your head right now, aren't you?
OK, let's start with a summary. I'm taking this right off Mike's site:
Summoned into her dying mother’s coma, recovering addict Eunice Ames must traverse a surreal, apocalyptic dreamscape in search of three generational spirits who have imprisoned her mother’s soul.
Together with Joseph, a crippled drifter who serves as her guide, Eunice treks an abandoned highway strewn with debris from her mother’s “emotional” wars.
(The rest of his synopsis, which goes into much more detail, can be found here.)
My take on it? The characterization was very strong. I got a real sense of Eunice and what she'd been through, even without having "met" her mother in the story. The other characters that accompany Eunice on her journey were vivid. I agree with reviewer Tim George that Mordant was annoying, but I believe that was Mike's intent. I mean--how do you get across that someone annoys another character to that degree without making that someone annoying to the reader?
The descriptive language was fantastic. I could see every contour of the landscape, but Mike didn't go overboard with detail. The words he chose were just right, many of them poetic, dark, and lovely. I think this was my favorite element of the book.
Although there were a couple of small moments where I wish the corner-hiding Stephen King would have stepped out a little more. One spot in particular where I thought, "Mr. King would have my skin crawling here, and Mike should have." But it was isolated. For the most part he really got the feel of each scene and each character to a satisfying level.
And finally, the surreal nature of the story totally appealed to me. I'm not sure where I got the idea that this is what Mike's writing is like. I mean, before The Resurrection I'd read all of one short story by him. It probably fell somewhere between these two in feel, but I guess I assumed a novel by Mike would be even more outlandish.
All in all, a very good read. Thinky and surreal.