Monday, January 26, 2015

Wolf in White Van

by Alida Hanson, Librarian

A unique and thought provoking piece of fiction about a strategy game conducted through the mail, a few of the players who took the game too seriously, and the creator of the game, Sean, who started the game when he was 17 after a disfiguring accident. You don't know the why of the accident until the very end.

Although short, it is dense and enigmatic. The plot would seem to be evenful, but somehow when you're reading it takes a back seat to beautiful language. One point of resistance for me was a pervading feeling of an oddly flat and one-dimensional world. The flap copy told me that the author is a famous lyricist. Could that be informing his fictional style? And is that a bad thing?

My favorite parts of the book were about the creation and maintenance of the game. We learn about the flow chart Sean used to make the game, and how infinite possibilites from the players' perspectives are in fact predetermined, limited choices. This is a major theme of the novel: what do we do with our choices?

Wolf in White Van doesn't remind me of anything I've ever read, but I am not a big fantasy reader and perhaps there are some comparisons there. I recommend this to readers who like to be challenged by literary fiction as well as those who have an interest in gaming (who doesn't like to play games?). Shortlisted for the National Book Awards, it has gotten a lot of critical attention this year.

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