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.
Westlake Soul makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you want to fill out that donor card and compose your living will.
A wonderful read and I'm not just saying that because the author signed my copy at WHC 2015 in Atlanta this spring.
Thanks for a great read.
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.
An absolute must read.