Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka

Stay Crazy is a humorous sci-fi mystery novel from the mind of Erica Satifka. I was lucky to pick up a signed copy of this novel at WorldCon last year though it took me a while to find the time to read it.  The novel touches on all sorts of tough issues in American culture from the treatment of the mentally ill to the corporatisation of small town America. The story revolves around Emmeline Kahlberg, Em for short, a patient released from a psychiatric hospital to return to live with her mother in her old hometown after a psychotic break in college.

The nature of reality is questioned throughout the novel and with a close third-person narration, a reader can never be sure if the information they are receiving or just a figment of Em's imagination. Under the order of her mother and recommendation of her psychiatrist, Em is forced to seek employment at a familiar megastore operating under the name Savertown USA. Em is embarrassed and frustrated with her new employment until she starts hearing voices in the frozen goods section.

A mystery serves as a major plot point for the novel though that never seem to be the major point of the novel as Satifka is more interested in exploring Em's struggling relationship with her family and her new boyfriend Kevin, another patient of her psychiatrist who has issues with past mental illness. A series of episodes go awry as Em struggles with bizarre occurrences and received dire warnings from the voice in the frozen goods section.

The science fiction element of the novel comes from Escodex, the voice in the Savertown items that convinces Emmeline that an entity from another dimension is killing employees. The only reason Em thinks this good be real is a rash of suicides amongst the employees of the store that seemed to be caused by this awful interdimensional being. I never quite knew whether this mystery was supposed to be reality or Em's imagination, which conjures up a feeling that could be similar to mental illness.

There is never too much exploration of mental illness and not a lot of solutions on how to handle these hallucinations as Em is focused on her quest to save the universe. The book has a fun mystery that never seems to come around and in the end, the book left me a little wanting though it wraps up satisfyingly enough. The writing is fun and the sarcastic humor makes all the scenes that much more fun to read though a few typos hindered the writing. I would recommend this book to those coping with lack of progress in their life and searching for a book that will make you question your reality. 

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