Medium Talent is insofar different than the other Apocalypse Weird novels that as a reader I am thrown into a world where everything is already unhinged. The main protagonist, Wendy Wicker, is a half-crazed captain of the Medium Talent, a rum smuggler and one of the few ladies out there on the sea. Those who survived, minus the undead who roam the Florida Keys, are under control by Supply Org, a sort of government, divided between Relief Zones and Depositories, depending where you fall.
There are layers upon layers upon layers, from zombies to Hemingway to Hoxhaists (and this is pure evil to include supporters of one of the most oppressive regimes the Communist era has seen), time travel and a back and forth between past and present, to an Apocalypse that already happened and were survivors have settled into a routine in an aftermath of a world that once was and is no more.
Also there is an extremely strong world-building when it comes to the Florida Keys. You can smell the sea, the beach, hear the noises in those dark, gloom nights. Scary, since it takes one into some rather depressing thoughts of ´all is lost´. What´s the use of it all, and as can be seen here, I am not the only one who felt that way.
"They just have something hit them hard, couldn´t cope, and decided to screw on the beach one last time before ending it all. You heard a lot of stories like that. Usually, the woman shot the man and then shot herself. I suppose that was ironic. Ladies were supposed to go first."
Like the ´let´s save women and children first in cases of an emergency on the sea´, I imagine, which is a rather nice and playful way to make a point. So no, the irony is not lost on me.
it is probably useful to read Medium Talent side by side with Hemingway at some point to make comparisons where Forbes West references to one of the giants of literature. I am sure I missed most of those since Hemingway and myself never really caught up with each other. He bored me out of my wits, so I totally understand, and accept, my bias in a negative way towards him.
Medium Talent must be a psychologist´s wet dream to untangle the (rather unhealthy) relationship between Wendy Wicker, Hemingway and Forbes West. I am sure this will said often by other readers of the book but there is no Medium Talent in sight. Right now, after finishing reading the book, and going after passages I highlighted and re-read, I am still uncertain how I really feel about it. It´s disturbing while pretty damn awesome too, but definitely not pretty. I don´t know if I can really deal with it on an emotional level. I feel overwhelmed, and almost as crazed as Wendy, a character I could not fully relate to, but accept how she turned out under those circumstances, like loosing a husband and daughter.
Essentially this is the most challenging book so far in the Apocalypse Weird world, and I have the feeling it will also be the most controversial one, insofar that it deals with the whole weird world from quite a different angle. The known factors are missing, while Forbes West spins a tale of possession with no redemption possible. It takes a lot of work too, the plot itself unveils rather slowly, there are characters who turn out quite differently that one gets the feeling they would, and their decisions made have an everlasting impact.
Wendy has to confront her demons, as I have to as a reader.
Medium Talent has this noir-esque 2edgy4u feeling, though. There are so many, maybe too many, mixed emotions right now in me that I don´t think I like this book. No, that´s not quite it. I don´t like the story coz it made me uneasy, delusioned and feeling off-balance. It disturbed my feel-good level of ... everything. So yeah, fuck you, Forbes West and thanks for the ride.
Also there is no reason to misquote Yeats. I cannot forgive that. No matter how artistic you think you are, you do not, under any circumstances, you do not misquote Yeats. Period. It is not cute or whatever, it´s stupid. Which is, and I am reasonably sure about that, a crime against humanity, and if not, it should be.
(Legal disclaimer: I received a free pre-publication ARC of Medium Talent by the publisher, Wonderment)