Forbes West achieved something with Bad Dream Man only a few writers will ever achieve in their lifetime. He single-handedly broke a publisher. Now that is something to be proud of, I´m sure. After reading Bad Dream Man I´m not really surprised they weren´t returning his calls anymore, and I really can´t blame them. Or that one Wondermentitian moved to Alaska to stick his head in the sand (metaphorically speaking), while the other bought a yacht to travel the world ... okay, my bad, that was someone else.
Back to Bad Dream Man... a few days short of publishing the book Wonderment announced they will close shop and that Apocalypse Weird is no more. The end of the world has to wait for another day, and that is just fine, as most/all ? authors will continue with their stories in one way or the other. Being a fan of the AW multiverse the dreaded feeling didn´t last all that long, as now I have something to look forward to even the original idea from their business angle didn´t work out. But I disgress. Anyway, after having read the ARC before what is now known as The Collapse, I figured, screw it. Alas, nothing´s lost here, Bad Dream Man will see the light of day in another form, in another time, and that is according to the story probably the only way it should be.
Until this very day I´m very fond of the memory when I wanted to strangle Forbes West for the very first time, that was after reading Medium Talent. There is just something about him that unleashes such feelings. I hated the book with passion, not really the book itself, but how it made me feel. And it was supposed to be this way. In comparison Bad Dream Man, and even this anti-comparison is a comparison, I know, left me less emotionally involved, more detached like a casual observer who sees the events unfolding. He still writes like a motherfucker on speed with all the highs and lows of a maniac, visceral, sensitive and when he is good he is very good. When he sucks balls, he sucks balls better than anyone, so there is that.
Bad Dream Man is a strange book, a very strange book. Different universes collide in rather un/subtle ways and they do so from one moment to the next. The Big Bang theory isn´t real anyway, you know? Wendy Wicker - see Medium Talent as this is not a standalone book but a continuation of The Dead Keys series and labelled as book 2.0 - and Martin Roth are "unstuck" in time, and different forms of their personas create different involvement in events, messy situations and identities. Roth finding himself as a low-level FBI employee on a hunt for Dillinger, which he assumes to be a false lead to discredit him when he doesn´t catch him, to him being a FBI big shot, or him being on the other side of the law as a feared and seeked bank robber; which Dillinger actually is, but not in this particular time and world. Sometimes those worlds mix themselves up as the world as we knew it is out of its angles. You can thank The Black Dragon for that. Also, nothing strange about it that Wendy Wicker already time travelled from the here and now (in Medium Talent) back into the days of 1934 where most of the story takes place.
Key West is still a dangerous zone, a permanent killing field, where everybody is on their own, and zombies, rogue vampires and a plenty of alien creatures roam the earth, or what is left of it, in search of even more destruction in some true apocalyptic fashion. There is some real physical effort to tear down the last of survivors to create a machine soundtrack of the one and only apocalypse. And the sound isn´t pretty. Buzzing helicopters and planes are like a military groove over the screams of people already dead and dying. The Key West is left to be rotten, a disorienting space where you either submit to the evil, break free or get broken. Where the dead and dying scream into a sonic world of non-existence.
Now with the second part I couldn´t follow Forbes West anymore, as the story turns from weird to truly bizarre. Never quite sure if he wanted to mock some old Sci-Fi classic movies (maybe) or if he is true and honest in this odd mission to outer space (probably). An other explanation might be that Forbes West is simply clinically insane (most likely), but this still needs to be confirmed.
Machine excess, android meat puppets, with mysthical and metaphysical pathways to a journey to destroy what should not be there but is waiting for billions of years already for the end to come. I´m not even sure if it is a moot point if Wendy Wicker indeed can succeed here.
Part II is a cyberpunkish dystopia of a world falling apart where one person tries to get a hold on realities, and to stop the evil. A one woman journey to herself and back to where she has family and friends, and at least in one of those worlds everyone´s alive and fine, and a life to live, devasting and unliveable as it may be. A coming of senses story though, when all common sense has left (almost) everyone.
And maybe this is the only way to write a story like that. Forget borders or boundaries or expectations, mash up, revisit the golden days with an retro-futuristic approach and welcome it with open arms, and see where it leads you. Good or bad or stuck in the middle of it where characters, stories and plot simply are.
One of the best thing for me was the rant by the ever so lovely Dr Midnite, a sort of an inside joke who gives out hints of what is happening all around the world where the main characters are cluessless about it. In some truly fascinating rant he shows that only Forbes West can write the real Dr Midnite, as he IS Dr Midnite. Granted, everyone who used the character in their books of the Apocalypse Weird gave some spice and flavor to him, but Forbes West being Forbes West brings him to life. Commie propaganda included, but that is to be expected.
Bad Dream Man is an epic undertaking of the good vs evil story, a transmission from the future, a screed of resistance when evil, true evil is unleashed on the human population. Or as Wendy Wicker puts it.
"Six millions Jews are scheduled to be exterminated in Europe. Millions of others are going to die in about in five years from a war started by Hitler, that brand new German Chancellor."
And that is the best of outcomes when Wicker, Roth and others can stop the evil from showing its true colors and take over ... everything, the world, and every single universe that happens to exist here. What a lovely world we live in, don´t we? But one thing Forbes West is not - cynical. It would have been too easy to give in to misanthrophy but he writes with passion and true felt belief there is hope for a better world.
Journals with diverse entries written by those "unstuck", which explain their own situations, are crucial to the plotline. Those journal entries prove to be that events are real, even those who wrote them can not always remember having written any of it or experienced those situations described due the disconnect with those different worlds colliding. Mix those with further journal entries later on by Hemingway himself, coz why not?, and you have a mind-boggling disconnect from what is real and what is a fever dream of unrealities, both true for the characters and for me the reader.
There is an inhuman terror in the story which urges us to fight back the evil, and to take back what is ours to begin with. Humanity.
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Bad Dream Man from the is no more publisher Wonderment, and I am one of three people or so who will ever have read this book.)
No rating, as I honestly have no idea how to rate a book which goes from post-apoc fiction to sci-fi and turns everything on its head while being an sort of but not quite emotional guilt trip of being alive with all its joys and sorrows. I´m also proud for not having told Forbes West to fuck off this time... oops. :)