“Cryptofauna” by Patrick Canning

Finally a novel about a video game that doesn’t read like a video game. While loosely based on a game format, this novel has a definite story arc and realistic, developing and wildly charismatic characters.

It also has weirdly creative humour reminiscent of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which results in such absurdities as travelling in an old school bus driven by a jinn in the form of a gibbon wearing a herringbone suit and sunglasses. When he isn’t a dragonfly. Oh, yes, and a Native American medium with a sphinxlike puzzle: a crossword with several hundred thousand clues.

The plot also includes an underwater habitat in the Norwegian Sea and an evil plan to destroy the world in an apocalypse of aphids. Telling you more sounds like a terrible spoiler, but there are so many plot twists it would just get lost in the cacophony.

Despite the madcap humour and rowdy creativity, the tale also manages to include a reasonable amount of suspense, some heartfelt sorrow and a sweet and simple love story.

There is even a theme. The novel starts with a suicide caused by “the lack of reasons not to do it,” and climaxes with Armageddon “for no real reason.” You figure it out.

Recommended for fans of wild and wacky fantasy.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



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