Back in February I went on a trip to Toronto with a friend. I had a blast—Toronto is amazing! Loved everything about it, except for the constant blaring of car horns every time I was outside. Seriously, just yell or flip people off or something! Oh, and I even found a phone booth in a restaurant while I was there.
The biggest downside was that Toronto is quite a long drive from here. 4-6 hours unable to charge any electronics, unable to use my cell, unable to take a nap because my friend would surely wake me… Wait! I could read!
And that was all the reasoning I needed to buy Noah Chinn’s newer work, Trooper #4.
I’ll say right now, this is not exactly in the same field as BHY, or any other post-apocalyptic tale for that matter.
The story follows a woman who woke up in the middle of nowhere (not really, but that’s what I’m calling it) with no idea how she got there or even who she is. Luckily for the reader the woman isn’t a complete bimbo and is able to make a name for herself based off of a name tag in the room with her, instead of random objects that happen to be nearby.
Felice (her name tag given name) is also smart enough to eventually figure out what is going on—and by that I mean, smart enough to see the world has pretty much ended. Zombie-like creatures called Moaners are running amuck in the nearby city, and the only other souls to be found are a little boy who has been traumatized and somebody who is held up inside of a supply store but refuses to let Felice or Mikey (the name decided on for the boy) in.
Since the Moaners and everybody else do not leave the city, Felice and Mikey remain held up in the Middle of Nowhere Motel because it is somehow safe.
All relatively normal for such a story, right? Until Felice picks up the standard Bible that every motel/hotel room is required to come with. If you do not like spoilers, do not keep reading this post or the book after this point.
The Bible has been changed, and not in a way you might think. It follows the story of Agent David Groves, and, in a Stranger Than Fiction way, is also updating in real-time.
Using this magical book for something other than shaming others, Felice is able to meet up with Groves and his gang. She is taken to Haven where she meets plenty of other survivors, including Doc McKay, who is apparently some kind of super-model scientist that Felice finds absolutely hilarious in a “You don’t know what you’re doing” kind of way. While there, she and Mikey develop an adorable mother-son relationship that is full of D’aww. And at some point we learn the real threat is not the Moaners themselves, but a mysterious and slutty woman named Mel.
Due to The Bible that Felice is clinging to changing with each passing day, it becomes clear to her that they are all characters in a story, with Groves being the main character instead of Will Ferrell. The ever-changing book also gives some insight into Felice’s identity (turns out she’s a random background character that went rouge, much like characters in MLP:FiM). Sadly this turns into bad news, as it seems the second Groves pays attention to somebody or something, it becomes established as part of the universe much like how a school in a film remains nameless unless an important character notices it. Why is this bad news? Because two people that Groves knew had mysteriously vanished. Because Groves was aware of the colony of survivors. Because Groves had been made aware of Felice and Mikey. All of which results in Mikey being kidnapped by Mel. Um. Bad.
Then in a wonderful twist of meta, Felice runs back to the motel from the beginning where she manages to connect with the author of the story she is currently living. This is something you simply have to read to find out about because it is simply heartbreaking and extremely interesting. If you want me to save you the trouble and spoil it like I have the rest of the book, I won’t. You really have to read this part, if nothing else. I’m seriously not telling you anything that happens at this point.
I will tell you the result of the conversation though. Felice realizes that several of the characters that were slipped into the story were Muses, including the two who vanished already (one was a History buff named Clio, and the other a star-gazing radio DJ named Yuri). Twisting everything Felice had believed to be true, she realizes that she is also a Muse, though she isn’t quite sure which one she is. This also means she is one of the only people who would be able to stop Mel, as they are both God-like beings in this fictional world.
Cue dramatic fight scene! Very dramatic, actually. Full of speeches, Groves dying, and attempts at figuring out which Muse is which, Felice confronts Mel and the two have at each other. This is also a good time to mention that Felice had been having very strange dreams over the course of the story, which help her make guesses towards her identity. In the end, our Trooper realizes she is a different Muse than she expected—not one she’d read about or heard about, but a special one created only for the author. His Muse. Melpomene is overpowered by this, and the screen rolls to black. Wait. I mean, we’re taken to an Epilogue were Felice and Mikey are living happily in their own little fictional world, waiting for the writer to need his Muse again.
Absolutely wonderful. I think part of what I love so much about this book is the meta aspect of it. Trippy in a way, but brilliant. While not every character has a use in this story, Chinn did some serious work on the story itself and it paid off. You may even develop whiplash from the number of times somebody thinks they know what’s happening just to be proven wrong a couple of pages or even paragraphs later. What’s even better is that it doesn’t come off as sloppy or jumbled. It all works together so well and succeeds in drawing you further and further into the story until you start to wonder if maybe you’ve become a Moaner yourself. Chinn’s work also has a little of a David Lynch feel to it, as dreams seem to be of importance in both BHY and to a much greater extent, Trooper #4, which I approve of very much. Another short story that is well worth the read, my friends. If you’re interested, check out Chinn’s website for information on buying the book.
P.S. I do not recommend trying to read it while on a drive to or from Toronto with a friend, though. Apparently an open book is not a universal symbol for “SHUT UP, I’M BUSY!” as I had thought.