Desert Creatures by Kay Chronister
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I initially took to be a post-apocalyptic Nevada desert dystopia filled with religious fanatics and a twisted kind of Las Vegas sainthood with all the corruption that implies actually turned out to be a story of subtle redemption. Indeed, the desert itself is a main character.
I do have to say that I liked this book better in hindsight than the actual journey. The ideas of the western aesthetic was there, of course, as was the slow degradation of the soul starting with pilgrimage all the way to years and years of abuse. The redemption aspect was there, but it was small and mostly only in the reader's mind.
I can't say I actually had a good time while reading this. It was hard to watch, so to speak. But then, I also have a hard time with most westerns or western-adjacents. It sometimes reads like a slow coming-to-terms, but it feels like a slow-burn horror. A very slow burn.
It is split up in three different PoVs and spreads across a good deal of time. The big focus on organized religion and the criticism -- as well as the supernatural elements -- kept this from being pure commentary. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this one straddles many lines without fully committing to any. Sometimes that works out great, and sometimes it's just unclear. I appreciate the subtlety, regardless.
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