A Hundred Thousand Worlds
A Hundred Thousand Worlds is a new literary novel aimed at con-goers, or at least those who know of such things. It’s the story of Valerie Torrey, former star of a cult sci-fi TV show; her son Alex, obsessed with words; and Brett Kazan, artist of Lady Stardust, a small press comic series.
Brett and Valerie meet at a comic convention in Cleveland. Valerie is traveling across the country with Alex to return him to his father, a more successful actor in California, and appearing at cons along the way for travel money.
I can’t tell you much of what happens, because I gave up after the first few chapters, for three reasons. The first is that author Bob Proehl is too in love with language. Everything is floridly described over and above what I thought necessary. (I kept misreading the title as “A Hundred Thousand Words”.)
Also, the thinly disguised entertainment elements were too cutesy for me. Brett draws for Black Sheep Comics (not Dark Horse). The big two companies are Timely and National. Valerie’s show sounds just like The X-Files. I found the rebuses distracting and wish people would either be more creative in making up their own popular culture or more blunt about whose successful items they’re referencing to give their own work heft.
Mostly, I didn’t want to read about a broken family and a search for meaning and all kinds of important themes that bored me. Call me a lowbrow or a philistine, but I like books where events occur. This one was instead full of conversation-stuffed scenes. I found myself twitchy, waiting for something to happen.
Perhaps, as someone who’s seen more than their share of conventions, both in front of and behind the scenes, I’m not the right audience, because I already knew so much of what Proehl wants to capture. Perhaps it’s a better book for those for whom these types — the faded star, the struggling artist — are more exotic, more like animals in a zoo on display for their enjoyment. (The publisher provided a review copy.)