Review: Amberville

AmbervilleAmberville by Tim Davys
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the top five weirdest books I have ever read. It takes place in a world of stuffed animals, but that has both almost no bearing on the story and is key to the main plot. What I mean is that it’s never revealed that actually they’re toys in a toystore or a messed up version of the 100 Acre Woods. The fact that they are stuffed animals is not part of some plot twist. (The thought that it might be a twist kept distracting me the entire time trying to find out the clue) But at the same time, the entire plot of the book, which in a way I don’t wish to spoil, revolves around life and death depends entirely upon the fact that, as stuffed animals, they can’t be killed in the ways that we can.

Contributing to the strangeness of the book is the fact that it shifts from omniscient 3rd person to first person POVs in various chapters. Two main characters are always in first person and a few auxiliary characters are in first person. But the bulk of the main protagonists have 3rd person omniscient POVs. Part of the trick there is that it’s generally assumed that 3rd person narratives are reliable narrators. But it eventually becomes clear that some of the first person chapters are unreliable narrators. And the reasons for the unreliability are quite varied.

Speaking of which, the narrative winds back and forth between the present and past, filling in little details here in there and eventually revealing an almost Fight Club level twist partway through the book.

It’s a meditation on the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves. It considers whether there is redemption or whether people are just evil or good. Church and state and power are examined. Hero worship. It’s a dense book for so strange a premise that I thought would be mined for humor.

If you want something different; perhaps something Weird (as in the genre) – you should give this a shot. And push through the seemingly cookie cutter-ish first few chapters until it flips you around and makes you start questioning everything.

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