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Going Bovine by Libba Bray

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This story takes place in an Alternate Universe[1] where MTV and Carson Daly are Yo!TV and Parker Day, Star Wars has become the clearly inferior Star Fighter, but mostly things are pretty much exactly the same.

And Cameron pretty much your every day pot-smoking, non-achieving, feels-like-he-only-has-relationship-with-his-dad’s-back sort of teen. Oh, with the perfect sister who is everything he is not – popular, gets good grades, a cheerleader who is dating the former quarterback.

And the whole situation annoys the hell out of him. He’s got a great snarky voice that make reading the first few chapters a delight.

Then the plot kicks in – Cameron finds out that he has Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease and Bray neatly satirizes some of the typical reactions, like the girl who couldn’t stand him getting all weepy and the school holding a pep rally for Cameron.

It’s like now that I am checking out, I actually matter. Ad for some reason, this demands cute baskets loaded with kiwi animals and apples carved into flowers. Calhoun High School has gone into overdrive for me. Rumor has it that the school board fears a lawsuit and they had people in sci-fi-worthy suits tearing apart the cafeteria in case that’s where the BSE came from. I hear the new menu features a lot of tofu. But to make up for the gosh-darn inconvenience of my having a terminal disease, they have organized a pep rally in my honor.

Cameron then embarks on a Don Quixotesque quest from Texas to New Orleans and then to Florida accompanied by his sidekick Gonzo (a hypochondriac gay dwarf) and the spirit of Baldur who has been trapped in a garden gnome. Bray makes allusions to Don Quixote a bit too much for my taste and honestly, I liked the story best when it was felt like it was a road trip, not a quest, with a lot of bickering and bantering and the three guys becoming friends.

Bray doesn’t ever let you forget that this trip is most likely happening all in Cameron’s head but having him hear bits of dialogue from the hospital. Though since there is an infinity of alternate universes there could be one where that’s the form Cameron’s hallucinations take. Bray never closes that door either. The ending is surprisingly satisfying and much less of a downer than I expected.

[1] I always feel like that should be capitalized even though that’s ridiculous. I may be catching random capital letter disease.(tm)

Written by Chance

February 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Libba Bray, novel