This is the question central throughout Kris Saknussemm’s visionary novel Zanesville.
It’s a good question.
According to the blurb, he could be a messiah, a reincarnated ex-porn star or a revolutionary. Read the blurb and read the novel to work it out for yourself.
Zanesville is set in a near-future alternative timeline America, where the landscape is more reminiscent of a surrealist painting of a country-sized Disneyland populated by 500 million escapees from a lunatic asylum. The style of writing is difficult to describe without throwing in references to the beat poets of the 50s and 60s, such as William S. Burroughs. Burroughs’ visionary style incorporated graphic visuals with insanely-rendered nightmare visions. Saknussemm does the same thing, albeit with his own unique style.
The writing is strong and fearless. The scope is magnificently gigantic. The story is fold upon fold of insanity, with more than a smidgen of surrealism.
Whether Saknussemm is a visionary or a madman is yet to be decided. All I know is that this book was good. It was very good. It dragged me in and chewed me up and rolled me around inside the cerebral cortex of the craziest patient in the worst asylum on Earth before spitting me back out into this reality, which pales in comparison to the US of the Vitessa Corporation. If America was anything like its alternate reality counterpart as portrayed in Zanesville, the line of people waiting to gain entry would be nearly as long as the line waiting to get the Hell out.
Read the synopsis below, read the novel, and prepare for wild ride through the imagination of one of the zaniest writers to come out of Australia in a long time.
Go on…I dare you!
4/5, with an edge toward 4.5/5
Futuristic bioweapon or good old-fashioned messiah? Reincarnated ex-porn star or mutant information-age revolutionary? The man who awakens in New York City’s Central Park with no memory of his identity and the enigmatic message FATHER FORGIVE THEM F carved into the flesh of his back may be all of these things and more.
Taken in (and then expelled) by a group of freedom fighters battling the soul-deadening Vitessa Cultporation, Clearfather is a stranger in an even stranger land. Following tantalizing clues that point to the gnomic Stinky Wiggler, and pursued by murderous Vitessa agents, Clearfather embarks on a surreal odyssey of self-discovery across an America that resembles a vast amusement park designed by some unholy trinity of Walt Disney, Hunter S. Thompson, and Hieronymus Bosch.
Accompanying Clearfather is an unforgettable cast of characters-including Aretha Nightingale, an ex-football-playing drag queen; Dooley Duck and Ubba Dubba, hologram cartoon characters sprung outrageously to life; and the ethereally beautiful Kokomo, whose past is as much a mystery as Clearfather’s own.
By turns hilarious and deeply moving, a savage, fiercely intelligent satire that is also a page-turning adventure and a transcendent love story, Zanesville marks the arrival of a brilliant new voice in fiction.
Buy it from AMAZON!