A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS: Nice Prose & Comic Book Punch

A Hundred Thousand Worlds

Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
PRHA:Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Family Life
Release Date: June 28, 2016
12 Hours and 49 Minutes
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Valerie Torrey took her son, Alex, and fled Los Angeles six years ago—leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way. 

As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars, from a hapless twentysomething illustrator to a brilliant corporate comics writer stuggling with her industry’s old-school ways to a group of cosplay women who provide a chorus of knowing commentary. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.

A knowing and affectionate portrait of the geeky pleasures of fandom, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is also a tribute to the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son—and to the way the stories we create come to shape us. – See more at: http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/534751/a-hundred-thousand-worlds/#sthash.aky0WAJ7.dpuf

My Take Oblong Shaped
The language in this book, the story, is rich and delicious.  It’s complex, inventive and told in an experimental fashion that threw me:

There’s a straight narrative; a little jumbled temporally, but a tale of normal-ish humans. 
Then there are superhero origins stories interspersed between chapters. 

These are mostly easy to understand in themselves, but their placement in the book’s narrative didn’t seem particularly relevant to the story on either side of each placement. Nor did it seem to tell one story.  I didn’t get whether the comic book sections are important to the “real-life” story or if they were just examples of the authors favorite comics.  

My confusion could be because I don’t know the world of comics and superheroes, and don’t have the context or language to get their relevance at that point.  While it could be a function of the audio format, I did not find that using the “look inside” feature on Amazon helped my comprehension. 

I loved nine-year-old Alex who is obviously precocious, possibly brilliant, and definitely charming.  Are there any normal children anymore or are they all brilliant? His mother is a serious actor who got caught up in a sci-fi TV show. She seems to be having a hard time differentiating herself from her character in the public’s eyes — they’re always confusing her with the character, an agent working for some time-line integrity agency.  This is not helped by the comic convention tour she has taken on as she brings her son to see his father. I wasn’t sure whether this convention tour was because she needed the money or if there was another reason.

Alex’s father, Andrew, is a hack: a good looking, but about-to-be-washed-up, leading man. He doesn’t have the talent to move into roles that don’t rely on his looks. Alex’s mother, Valerie, left without telling Andrew where she was going to prevent her son being endangered by her ex’s casual ways; ways that have already resulted in tragedy.

On the comic-con side, there are a great many characters and there are a couple of “ripped from the headlines” issues discussed like how few women there are writing or illustrating comics and how women in comics appear. Aspects of the comics industry are also looked at; especially how movies based on comics are changing the industry.

I love how the relationship between Val and her son is developed; he is definitely older, and wiser than his years where she is a very good, loving mother who is a little vengeful and a lot scared about her child’s welfare and who she will be at the end of the summer.

If you like comic books, or accessible and enjoyable literature, then you will probably enjoy this well-done debut (full-length) novel.  It’s not heavy literature but does have impact.

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