Westlake Soul Paperback – Apr 15 2012
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About the Author
Rio Youers has been praised by some of the most noteworthy names in the speculative fiction genre. He is the British Fantasy Awardnominated author of OLD MAN SCRATCH and END TIMES. His short fiction has been published by, among others, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, IDW, and PS Publishing. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their daughter, Lily Maye.
Top Customer Reviews
Similar in emotional impact and tone to Mitch Alboum's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Youers' novel takes the reader into the world of former surfer, Westlake Soul, who is now in a vegetative state from a catastrophic surfing accident. Told in first person, mostly stream-of-consciousness, this is an ambitious novel delivered with such ease and simplicity it's as though Westlake himself sits beside you, telling you his tale.
And although the novel is pigeon-holed as science fiction, it is far more, part magic-realism, mostly stunning literary fiction.
The only caveat I would have is not to read this in public spaces, because people will wonder about the nervous breakdown you're having.
Well done, Rio Youers!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
WESTLAKE SOUL is the story of Westlake, a twenty-three year old surfer, who's put into a persistent vegetative state by a surfing accident. The catch is that the novel is narrated by Westlake himself, he's been trapped in his boy, but his mind is working better than it ever has. Westlake's accident has "flipped the iceberg" of his mind, allowing him powers of perception far beyond human limits (for example, he can talk to the family dog and can "release" a projection of himself to anywhere in the universe), but still his body languishes on life-support and his family is beginning to give up hope.
The central conceit is a good one, but the novel wouldn't be half of what it is if not for Westlake himself. Youers has crafted a character that can relate this immensely sad premise without letting the novel feel too dour. Westlake is optimistic, funny, affably self-assured, while still feeling flawed enough to be a real person.
That's not to suggest that WESTLAKE is some kind of romp, it's not. In fact, if the book goes to some very dark places and if it doesn't bring you to the verge of tears at least once, I'm going to wager that you're dead inside.
I sat on this review for a few days, I'd finished the last 100 pages or so in one long sitting and immediately took to twitter and Goodreads to gush. So many superlatives were bubbling up in my mind ("Best book eva 4 real!"), so I told myself to take a chill pill and compose my review in a few days. Well the time has elapsed, and I still love this book. I think all that time to think on it has actually enhanced my appreciation for it.
What a great book. Pick it up ASAP, you'll thank me.
This book is so beautifully crafted.
Needless to say, by 50 pages in I had already cried three times.
Don't miss this one. This is the only book I have ever felt compelled to review. And I read A LOT of books.
Wes is convinced that he will eventually overcome his disabling condition, that he will speak and surf again, while the reader suspects that Wes is unable to accept his fate, to process the knowledge that his consciousness will always be trapped inside a dysfunctional shell. When things get tough for Wes, he projects himself to a calmer place: a rainforest, a waterfall, the moon. Of course, the reader wonders whether this is a defense mechanism, blissful imagination replacing horrid reality.
There are moments when Westlake Soul strives to be literary but most of the time the prose is active and edgy, conveying the story's emotion rather than the beauty of language. Emotions pervade the story. Love is at its center, but sorrow and loss and anger and fear provide the context. Wes remembers the love of a girlfriend who, understandably, is now gone from his life. He experiences a new love for his second caregiver. He loves his family and, of course, the dog whose mind he can now read. These people (and the dog) love Wes in return, making the decision they must reach all the more difficult. It is a testament to Rio Youers' skill that the emotions he evokes are sometimes so powerful that story becomes difficult to read.
Although the novel is driven by love, it's more fundamentally about life and death, with life at the forefront. Learning to live, according to Wes, means learning to conquer fear. As I was reading Westlake Soul, I had some concern that it would turn into a polemic, fuel for the wrongheaded politicians who condemned Terri Schiavo's husband for discontinuing her life support, who thought they knew more about her cognitive ability than her doctors did. That concern was unwarranted. The novel doesn't advocate for the religious right. Quite the opposite, given Wes' nonjudgmental nature and his realization that as important as it is to fight for life, it is equally important not to fear death.
There are times when Westlake Soul dances on the edge of melodrama. There are times when Wes is so unselfish and forgiving as to strain credulity -- at least until he does something, late in the novel, that reveals a minor but all-too-human flaw. Despite its faults, Westlake Soul did what good literature should do: it moved me. From the beginning to the end, Westlake Soul touched me emotionally in a way that cheesy melodrama never does. I tip my hat to Youers for writing such a powerful and convincing story.
As you can imagine, this isn't an easy book to read. The reader not only reads about Westlake's thoughts and feelings but reads about the devastating impact on his family.
But this isn't meant to be a depressing book but a story of wisdom of exploring life and death, a look at hope, and most of all, the journey that Westlake takes after his accident and the insights he reaches along the way. It's a "what if?" story.
This is a deeply touching story, one that I will remember for a long time. I laughed, I was angry, I cheered, and yes, I cried.
Author Youers writes this fantastical tale, with beautiful phrasing and an instinctual feeling for the story's path, that draws the reader in and leaves us wrung out and depleted yet filled with a lightness at the tale's end.
WARNING! Prepare to cry your eyes out!!
The story tells of Westlake Soul, a free-spirited surfer whose entire life changes within a split second. An accident that leaves him in a permanent vegetative state, forces him to watch in painful silence as the people he loves are faced with difficult decisions. Unaware of his presence, he pleads with them to not give up on him, but to fight for him because there is nothing he wants more than to truly live again. Dr Quietus, his evil nemesis challenges him each day as he clings to life, but Westlake's will to survive is stronger than Dr Quietus and he fights with everything he has left. Is it enough, though? The only one who believes in him is his dog, Hubba-Hubba Artful Soul, or Hub as we so affectionately get to know him throughout the book. By some strange occurrence, after the accident, Westlake is able to communicate with Hub, as well as other animals. If only Hub was able to communicate with the rest of the characters in the book, then he'd be able to tell them that Westlake was still around. With the arrival of a new caregiver, Yvette, Westlake's "life" changes, he feels more alive than he has in months and new hope fills him with the idea that Yvette may truly believe that he is not entirely gone. But, as is reality, some things cannot be fixed, no matter how much we wish them to be, no matter how hard we fight.
Rio Youers' brilliance in bringing to life the very essence of the human soul is breath-taking. Never have I connected more with a character, especially one who is physically unable to do much of anything throughout the story. All we know if what he feels and experiences within his being. The strength of his spirit and determination to win the fight that is death is beautiful, and my ideas and thoughts of people in his condition will forever be changed.
I was constantly cheering for Westlake, with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, a miracle would bring him back to the world he so desperately wanted to return to. This book is filled with heart-breaking moments as his family struggle with a decision that may very well end Westlake's torture, as well as their own, bringing with it an entire new level of misery. There is truly nothing I can fault this book on. It was a fantastic read from start to finish, and it haunted me for days after I had finished reading it. Every time I think of this novel, I will be reminded of how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken away.