The Escapement by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For such a short read, this highly intellectual bizarro western packs one hell of a wallop.
On one hand, it's merely the depths that a man will go through as he watches his child suffer in the hospital, but on the other, greater portion, it's literally a Dark Tower-like adventure with truly gorgeous detailed oddities everywhere.
The Stranger is one of the high arcana, and there are lots of tarot references with a full spread of Grimm, Russian mythology, Hebrew mythology, Greek, Mesopotamian, and Sergio Leone... not to mention Stephen King.
If it's a wild wasteland of the heart and mind, the text itself is fantastically cerebral and gore-filled. The nightmares are clowns. Old warriors from strange battles have musical instruments for legs and glass, ant-filled tubing for arms. Roses are more than roses and the desolation is as much as any Stranger can bear, in or out of a hospital.
The writing is one of the most creative and it is definitely wildly original. Don't let the various mythological pieces define it for you. I got lost in the tale and it eventually became quite difficult to pull myself away to surface to my reality.
I almost drank Sticks, myself.
Now, I should be honest here: I've been a long-time fan of Lavie Tidhar but even if I hadn't already fallen in love with his other writings, I'd be pointing at this and saying, "OMG, people, this is intellectually fantastic and overflowing with originality, worldbuilding, and heart hidden behind a stoic facade. Don't miss this!"
Fortunately, I can be both. Do yourself a favor and check him out.
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