Wolf in the White Van

Farrar. Oct. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780374292089. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780374709662. F
Though in a way about sf, this debut novel by the lead singer of the Mountain Goats is not a sf story. It's essentially a character study about narrator Sean Phillips, a thirtysomething man with severe facial disfiguration caused by an "accident" during his late teens. It's only after about 100 pages that we start to learn the nature of the incident and much later that we discover more details. While recovering, Sean imagined and later realized a mail-in game called Trace Italian; much of the book deals with moves from the game, especially when one couple extends it to reality with fatal results. Not much is made of the court case that ensues. Mid-book there's a vignette, in which Sean watches a man deliberately back his truck at speed into the front (face) of a parked car, then drive off. The point? None, until you realize it's a foreshadowing, also an "accident." It's that kind of book. The title comes from the satanic lyrics of a rock song played backwards.
VERDICT Beautifully written psychological fiction for sophisticated readers, with not much else like it out there.
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