Saturday, April 4, 2020
Weird Retail: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka
Yeah, things are weird and scary right now, but I'm still reading books. And I'm still reviewing them. Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka was just what I needed right now.
I purchased the book from the author at Worldcon in 2016, and I wish I had read it sooner. Maybe in another dimension some other version of me did. Or maybe it's good that I waited until I needed a funny, weirdly-compelling book to read in this dimension.
The blurb on the cover compares Satifka to Philip K. Dick, which is somewhat apt, especially if you, like me, appreciate the weird humor of Dick's writing that the movie adaptations never get right. But Satifka is also her own author with her own style, weirdness, and sense of humor. I laughed out loud a lot while reading this, which you might not expect from a book about mental illness, soulless big box retail stores, small town despair, and inter-dimensional warfare.
The main character, Em, is not always likable per se, but I love her snark, especially when she's interacting with assholes. And her relationships with her mom and her sister are fraught but also tender in their own way. I imagine Em as one of those friends you may only want to hang out with in small doses, but you love her just the same.
The plot of the book isn't so much hard to explain as it's so weird that my description wouldn't do it justice. The plot description gives you some idea of what to expect. My advice: just go with it. It's fun.
The book deals with a lot of difficult topics: mental illness, the economic hellscape of small town America, the structure of reality itself (metaphysics!). Did Em really do all the things she thinks she did? Probably, but it's hard to say (there's some good epistemology to be done here!). Did she grow as a character? Definitely. And did I as the reader enjoy the ride? For sure.
See also my Goodreads review.