Thursday, March 11, 2010

Going Bovine

Cameron Smith, 16, is slumming through high school, overshadowed by a sister “pre-majoring in perfection,” while working (ineptly) at the Buddha Burger. Then something happens to make him the focus of his family's attention: he contracts mad cow disease. What takes place after he is hospitalized is either that a gorgeous angel persuades him to search for a cure that will also save the world, or that he has a vivid hallucination brought on by the disease. Either way, what readers have is an absurdist comedy in which Cameron, Gonzo (a neurotic dwarf) and Balder (a Norse god cursed to appear as a yard gnome) go on a quixotic road trip during which they learn about string theory, wormholes and true love en route to Disney World.

I must admit that throughout this reading, I often had doubts about where the story was going. Libba's newest book was meant to be a crazy journey through craziness itself, but to me it seemed more as if it was a journey through randomness.

This book is actually centering on the death and life theme, and what it means to live, when does a person really start to live, what happens after death, how does it feel to know you're going to die and how you can cope with it.

I any case, to sum it up. I enjoyed reading this book, even if I had to put it away for a month when other, more interesting books presented themselves. It's written in a funny, blunt yet vulgar way, but it matches to the characters' nature. I thought it a relief to read a book with a just-going-with-the-flow type of feeling (if anyone can understand me), and it brought a few laughs and smiles at time.

The plot was an O.K. for me. It felt as if it had just a bit too much around it, and often some things weren't explained and a stood bit foggy, and so it made me go 'What? Where did that come from? What is happening?'. I had to reread some pages to try and find extra information meant to enlighten me about what was happening, but I never found what I was looking for, and thus I never really understood those elements that left me perplexed or hindered my comprehension. It's a good thing for authors to sometimes lay things out raw, but there are also contexts where more information must be given for the reader to understand. Going Bovine was confusing in my places. The 'trip' on which the characters went wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be. It was just random, actually. It didn't start making sens until the last chapters of the book, and that's maybe what the author was aiming for, but it was still funny.

Yet, the book left me wondering. Cameron and his friends ride through the country jumping from one extravagant event to the other, leading them into crazy parties and cults. Does it suggest that Cameron started 'living' only when he hit the rode and drove into gaudy and inordinate situations? Is the message 'life is all about partying'? I'm not quite sure about that aspect of the book, and I think it sent out the wrong vibe.

I really liked the characters though, especially Gonzo, the Mexican dwarf, and Balder the viking yard gnome. Their eccentricity really added up to all the weird events that came up on their way. Dulcie was really fun too, even if I would have liked to know more about her. She could have been a bit more developed in my opinion, and so could have been her relationship with Cameron. Cameron was our average teen protagonist, and I really don't have anything against him.

For some, it may seem as if this book is not worth reading and it might not appeal to many. I nevertheless liked the conclusion a lot, and how the book ends with a 'what is really reality?' emphasis. I hadn't been too enthusiastic with the 'let's save the world!' plot, but it ended very well, and not with what I had expected. In conclusion, it was a very enjoyable read and I'm sure many people will enjoy it too if they let their minds go wild. Going Bovine is the kind of book I'd re read again just to relax, and spend a few hours in craziness and randomness. Gemma's Trilogy is still ranked top among my read-books-by-Bray, but I don't discourage the reading of Going Bovine.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Rating: 7,7/10

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