FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had such potential.
The basic premise, that a storm wipes out contact with the skeleton crew of a Disney-esque amusement park, who then revert to literal tribalism and savagery fits in well with today’s YS dystopias and the tagline of “Lord of the Flies” meets “Battle Royale” is fairly accurate.
But that’s where it ends.
The story is told in a series of interviews, the conceit being that this is a “book” being “written” by a journalist who’s trying to understand what happened in the park. Except only one person is interviewed twice, with each eyewitness advancing the story just a little bit, ideally, leaving us, the reader, to fill in the blanks and come to our own conclusions. Unfortunately, though, this mosaic approach really only gives a decent glimpse of only one of the main players, who is painted in cartoonishly broad “sociopathic” strokes.
So we have these shallow, skim the surface, first-person portraits of the people in the park (including, for some unknown reason, a patron who gets out safely) to try and create a sense of differing perspectives and rationalizations of the horrific actions, many of whom are unreliable (or forbidden to talk under advice from their lawyers) so we’re not sure what’s real and what’s not. Many, MANY, questions are raised which are never answered.
And then the author tries to let us know through a weird shoehorning that the main cause of the social breakdown is that the “kids” in question resorted to violence so quickly, despite having enough food, water, and shelter, because they were suddenly distanced from their social media outlets. Various interviewees mention that not having the ability to instantly post about their lives made them susceptible to boredom and a complete and total break down in morality.
Personally, I don’t buy it. It seems like an easy answer to a complex question. If the author had really wanted to push this agenda, he’d have given us fewer viewpoints and maybe tucked a psychiatrist or psychiatrist in amongst his “interviews.”
Ultimately, it was entertaining, but it could have been much more.
That all said, though, the narration, by Angela Dawe and Luke Daniels, was amazing! They differentiated each character and gave each one a unique and distinct voice.