Sunday, April 29, 2012

Westlake Soul (ChiZine Publications) by Rio Youers

If a single word can be used to describe a book, then Westlake Soul can only be described as transcendent.

The titular character is aptly named, because a soul is all that Westlake has left. His body was destroyed in a tragic accident, leaving the former surfing champion and all-around good guy in a permanent vegetative state. Nevertheless, he considers himself a superhero—his intellectual iceberg has flipped, giving him access to that mythic ninety-percent of the mind that the rest of us mere mortals can only glimpse below the churning of our surface thoughts. He’s now super-intelligent, can “release” and travel across the world outside of his body, visit other souls, and communicate with the family dog. Still, he must constantly struggle across the vistas of the mind with his arch-nemesis, Dr. Quietus, to stay alive and persevere.

Youers (Dark Dreams, Pale Horses and Mama Fish) builds this novel on the strength of his prose. He not only paints a picture of Westlake and his vivid mental landscape, but he performs that peculiar magic of the truly gifted writer—he pulls you into the heart of the story and makes you live there for a while. He accomplishes this by letting Westlake tell his own story in the manner in which only he can.

Every word, every delicate phrase, glows and vibrates with Westlake’s sly and optimistically world-weary voice. Witty, compassionate, and full of life, Westlake is the quintessential fighter—always striving for “more”. Though he is a superhero, he’s not perfect and is still human—which is the entire point. As he powerlessly watches the people he cares about ride out the curls of their lives, Westlake learns to absorb the emotional auras of others and incorporate them into psychic building blocks through which he can affect the world around him—essentially relearning how to build a human life. Whether or not Westlake is actually super-intelligent or if all that he describes is merely the ranting of a trapped mind, is unimportant and beside the point. Westlake’s understanding of the human condition ultimately transcends his physical limitations.

This novel transcends genre. Youers’ lyrical prose transcends literary convention. Westlake himself transcends the page and lives in hearts of all who encounter him. Anyone who finishes this book and does not carry a bit of Westlake with them literally has no soul.


Reviewed by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett 

 Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew. Visit him at Serial Distractions.

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