This review was first published by Booklist in July, 2016.
In simplest terms, this is the story of a man, Ben, who goes for a walk in the woods, gets very, very lost, and stumbles into a fantastic and monstrously dangerous realm from which he can’t seem to escape. The bizarre, funny, and haunting narrative achieves a dream-like quality, with events that feel simultaneously random and inevitable. Magary’s writing echoes the compelling lyricism of folktales, which juxtaposes surprisingly well with his sarcastic sense of humor. More than anything else, this novel may remind readers of classic adventure computer games like King’s Quest. The main character is faced with an arbitrarily circumscribed world and limited options, and the story unfolds in ways that are strange and disturbing. Just like those old computer games, it has an addictive quality; you need to know what’s going to come next. The book stumbles a bit at the end, trying too hard to be philosophical, and there’s a last-second twist that’s harmless but also unnecessary. Otherwise, an engrossing and imaginative read.