2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 6 books toward her goal of 240 books.
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Book Review AND Excerpt: RoadSeven by Keith Rosson

What a deliriously dark, trippy, head-case of a story this was – I LOVED IT! Keith Rosson has created a cast of characters that is all too believable, not too likeable, and particularly relatable in their apathy, egotism, fears and neuroses. Then he takes those characters on a series of adventures that play out like horror/sci-fi/#AdultingIsHard mini stories that together comprise a novel that is original, interesting, and head-shake-producing in equal measures. It was a helluva ride and one I thoroughly enjoyed – primarily because it was so quirky and unusual, but also because of the way sneaky little red herrings, twists, and life lessons were snuck in throughout.

So with that opening, let me share information about the book. Here’s the official blurb:

Road Seven follows disgraced cryptozoologist Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—who has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman’s farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries. Road Seven will mark the third of Rosson’s novels to be published by Meerkat Press.

Now back to the review. I was never entirely sure what was going on or coming next. Often that irks me. I tend to prefer stories to be pretty linear. I read to escape *real* life – as such, I don’t want to work too hard to follow things or figure out what end is up. Every now and then though, I stumble on a title that twists back on itself in a way that resonates and just works for me. This was one of those. The foibles and weaknesses of the main characters could have been irritating – instead, through Rosson’s careful plotting and revelations of back- and forward-going story for each, I found myself curious as to what the next train wreck would look like, and how they’d navigate it, rather than annoyed that the inevitable (i.e., bad choices lead to bad outcomes) was happening yet again…

I don’t know why it worked, but it did – beautifully. I was thoroughly engaged from the opening salvo and the last pages felt like they tied everything together without being handy or sunshine-blowing. It was a fine line to walk and Rosson managed it magnificently. I tried one of his earlier titles, but struggled to get into it – based on this read, I’m thinking I owe it, and him, another look!

Thanks once again to the good folks at #Meerkat Press for my obligation-free review copy. If you aren’t familiar with their catalog, you really should be – they have a remarkable collection of authors/books that are unusual, entertaining, and definitely worth a look!

And now for the good part – the excerpt! Thanks again to the fantastic folks at Meerkat for this sneak peek!

Excerpted from Chapter 1, RoadSeven
by Mark Rosson
(Obviously, copyright protected)

1

It was a help wanted ad from a monster hunter.

The monster hunter, really, if such a term could ever be said out loud without at least a little wince, a self-conscious roll of the eyes. Its arrival came via a forwarded link from Ellis, who in the subject line wrote: Aren’t you into this guy?

It was a spring evening and Brian sat in his room, enveloped in the encroaching night, cradled in his usual pain. A few moths flitted in mortal combat against his window screen, and Brian had the napalm grays going on, had that deep and familiar knife-throb in the skull. The Headache That Lived Forever. Still, Ellis’s line made him smile. Brian heard him downstairs in the kitchen yelling to Robert over the music, cupboard doors slamming closed. They were making drinks—pregame warmups, Ellis called them—before the three of them went out to get stupid, or what passed for stupid these days. Brian was already thinking of ways to bail—his head, when it got like this, in this kind of slow, heated roil, like a halo of barbs being cinched tighter and tighter, alcohol was no good for it.

Down the hall in the bathroom, he dropped a trio of aspirin into his palm and chewed them while he gazed at his face in the mirror. Three would maybe take the edge off, turn the headache from a sharp blade scraping along the bowl of his skull to a dull one. That was about it; you could grow used to anything. He leaned close and gazed at the galaxy of burst blood vessels in one eye.

Back in his room, bass-heavy nü metal ghosting through the floorboards, Robert bellowed laughter in response to something Ellis said. Brian sat back down, looked at the screen of his laptop. His bare feet on the wood floor, the occasional draft from the window fluttering the curtains. The moths outside, insistent and hopeful. Here was spring in Portland: the scent of cut grass, the blat of a car alarm, the creak of a shifting, old, many-roomed house. Ellis’s place he’d inherited from his parents; Brian had been his roommate since they were undergrads.

His desk was choked with stacks of accordion folders, mugs of pens. Outdated anthro journals he kept telling himself he’d read someday. He clicked on the link Ellis had sent, and it took him to a cryptozoology website, and not one of the good ones. Not one of the ones that Brian sometimes cruised (with only the slightest tinge of embarrassment), ones that tended to mirror or replicate the “reputable” sciences. No, this one, menandmonsterz.com, had all the trappings of the technologically inept and socially unhinged: woefully pixilated photos, a dizzying array of fonts stacked and butting up against each other. There was a link, holy shit, to a Myspace page. What If Leprechauns, one headline blared in what was almost certainly Papyrus font, Were Really Pre-Stone Age Hominids!?! This, alongside a fan-art illustration of the Lucky Charms leprechaun leering and holding a stone ax in each hand. Beneath that, a banner ad for hair regeneration. The type of site, honestly, that made antiviral software programmers rich.

And yet, the next part snagged him:

The Long Way Home author, alien abductee, famed cryptozoologist, and renowned cultural anthropologist Mark Sandoval is on the hunt for a research assistant. And maybe it’s YOU!

He snorted at the “cultural anthropologist” part and scrolled down past the iconic cover of The Long Way Home, Sandoval’s memoir about his alien abduction (the image was a tiny human figure enveloped in a cone of light from some unseen but brilliant overhanging light source, the same image they’d used for the movie) and then past Sandoval’s Hollywood-quality headshot. It continued:

Mark Sandoval is looking for a research assistant to accompany him on a site visit outside of the US. Position is confidential and time-sensitive. Terms and compensation commensurate with experience. Visit marksandoval.com to apply.

“Brian!” Ellis bellowed from downstairs. “Get your pregame drink on, dear heart! Let’s do this shit!”

“We’re making the most terrible drinks we can,” warbled Robert.

Brian typed in the address to Sandoval’s website, and it was a much nicer affair. Professional, clean, and surprisingly understated, considering the man claimed to have at one time literally traded punches with a chupacabra. And there was the ad—the same exact information, with a Click to Apply button at the bottom. Vague as hell. Had the air of haste to it, something quickly cobbled together. But he clicked on it, scratched his chin with his thumbnail. Pressed three fingers against his eyelid, felt the sick, familiar throb in the hidden meat behind his eye. He quickly typed in the various fields—name, email address, phone number—and confirmed that he did indeed have a valid passport. Then he uploaded his CV, which he had at the ready because this, of course, was not remotely the first time Brian Schutt had dicked around with the notion of ditching everything in regard to his future. No, this was not the first time at all.

***

That’s how it opens. That’s how it hooked me. Now give it a look!!

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