Libba Bray : Going Bovine

At the outset of Going Bovine, Cameron Smith, a quintessential teenage underachiever, finds out he’s under an unusual death sentence: he’s contracted Mad Cow disease. With some supernatural aid, he breaks himself out of the hospital and goes on a whacky road-trip to save both himself and the universe — or then again, maybe he doesn’t. Going Bovine is liberally salted with references to multi-universe theory versions of resolving quantum indeterminacy, more than enough to suggest that even if the novel definitively resolves the issue of whether Cameron’s adventures are hallucinatory or real, the answer doesn’t matter.

Bray explicitly references Don Quixote throughout, but the picaresque novel Going Bovine most called to my mind was Candide, or perhaps even more, a slightly updated and mostly de-ribaldized Candy. (Like Candide, Cameron is young and naive.) Cameron bounces rather fecklessly between various groups of people (Mardi Gras revelers, cultists, and reality show producers among them). Bray doesn’t offer the nastiness of truly great satire, but provides trenchant observations throughout. This bit:

It’s one of those places full of useless junk — state spoons, frosted pecans with a half-life of about two hundred years, tea towels decorated with cranky observations about life, novelty cookbooks, and trivets shaped like lighthouses because apparently the world is clamoring for cute things they can place piping hot casserole dishes on. It’s hard to believe people buy this shit, and even harder to believe they give it to other people as mementos, like, “Hey, we went on this awesome vacation but we brought you back some pickled peppers in a festive, dancing jalapeno jar. Thanks for feeding our cat!”

was particularly fun to encounter in a resort town, with friends looking after our felines.

needs more demons I liked this novel quite a bit, but Cameron’s passivity bugged me, the tone was a bit inconsistent, and I’m a bit ambivalent about the ending. But I give it credit for being much more ambitious than typical supernatural YA fare. And you may never look at snow globes the same way.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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