Saturday, May 11, 2019

Fantasticland by Mike Bockoven

FANTASTICLAND was an unholy amount of fun, in that "I'm going to hell for enjoying this" sort of way. I think the best way to blurb it is by saying that it's like LORD OF THE FLIES, if LORD OF THE FLIES was delivered in a mock-documentary format like WORLD WAR Z - only it's much better than either of those two books. Basically, there's a theme park called "Fantastic Land" that is utterly devastated by a gigantic hurricane called Sadie. Escape from the park is cut off by water, and everything loses power. The employees are marooned there, but with plenty of food and water. Seems like things should be OK, right?

That's what everyone else thinks too, at first. Until the bodies start piling up. The employees separate into "tribes" based on which parts of the park they take over as their command centers, and things start getting pretty brutal, pretty fast. Each interview, with various "survivors" and other people who were either directly or peripherally involved with this horror show, give you more information about what went down, and it is chilling.

I made the mistake of reading this late at night and ended up staying up until midnight on a work night because I wanted to find out what happened next. A lot of people criticized this book, saying it was ridiculous and wasn't realistic, and I think that was a critique of LORD OF THE FLIES, too. Personally, I thought it felt realistic, as people are herd animals who do utterly stupid things in crowds when they think the rest of the group's OK with it (see: Trump voters), and cruelty can sometimes be a more advanced and sociopathic byproduct of cruelty, so I bought it.

I liked that everyone had their own "voice." I liked that everyone tried to rationalize their actions and point the finger at someone else, who was "worse." The public displays of violence for power, the savage coups, and the scavenging and fringe behaviors were really fascinating from a psychological perspective. One of the scariest scenes in this book didn't even have any violence at all - it involved a cat and mouse game in an abandoned hotel and it was something right out of Stephen King.

If you're a fan of J.G. Ballard or Joe Hill, I think you'll really enjoy FANTASTICLAND.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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