Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Stay Crazy

Erica L. Satifka Stay Crazy (2016)
This one came to me in mysterious ways, a Christmas present picked from an Amazon wish list to which I have no recollection of having added it - and yet patently I must have done unless the book just came looking for me, which would at least be appropriate given the story. The strap-line on the cover invokes Philip K. Dick, and for the right reasons for fucking once. Stay Crazy is thankfully lacking rain-soaked male models cinematically experiencing existential crisis in blue and orange, and although there's an obvious parallel in Emmeline's relationship with the possibly unreal Escodex, this is, above all, solid blue collar science-fiction ingrained with the grit and crap and kipple of daily existence, madness, and all points between. Additionally, as with Dick, there's a whole heapin' helpin' of wit without anyone feeling the need to crack jokes or wink at the reader.

Stay Crazy is about a possibly average young woman working at what may as well be Walmart whilst wrestling imperatives dished out by incorporeal alien forces and taking forms pertaining loosely to paranoid schizophrenia. Having known what occasionally seems like more than my fair share of those patrolling the perimeter fence of their own sanity, and having served at least two decades in blue collar limbo, I'm very much familiar with the territory of Stay Crazy, and its attention to prosaic detail is powerful. Somebody or other, possibly Robert Dellar, observed that mental illness might usefully be regarded as an inevitable consequence of late capitalism - an unfortunately legitimate response to unreasonable pressure - which this novel seems to illustrate, if not actually explain. Everyone here is coping, or barely coping, with the obligation and expectation of friends, family, church, society, and consumerism itself, with the dynamic externalised as an invasion or intrusion from elsewhere. So Stay Crazy may not actually explain why people sometimes flip out and perform inexplicable atrocities, but it contains most of the clues you'll need if you genuinely give a shit about the problem; and all disguised as a right rivetting read. I'd say it was VALIS filtered through Buffy the Lucrative Entertainment Franchise, except it's more it's own thing - more lucid than most of Dick's writing, more heart, and with less pouting than any of that vampire crap.

This is one hell of a debut novel.

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