Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Spotlight: The Weird of Math by Matt Schutt

Bonjour, Beardies!

When we first started offering Review Requests, the title of this Spotlight appeared in my inbox. I was very intrigued by its premise, therefore wanting to read and review it for myself, but I had to put it on the back burner as my commitment plate was already full. I'm glad I decided to hoard it for my own reading pleasure—and I am excited to spotlight it for all of you today!

Math McMannon is still alive and breathing, yet he is stuck in some sort of coma. His daughter, Randi, via a demon named Ratbite, discovers that Math has created a wondrous dreamworld called the Gloaming and set himself up as its god. But the inhabitants of the Gloaming have tricked Math and now hold him prisoner. Math is unable to reach the sunlit world and, according to Ratbite, it’s up to Randi to save him.

Randi accepts the demon's mission, mainly to prove that she is made of better stuff than Math McMannon and to gloat over the old man in his time of crisis. But the Gloaming proves not to be a land of lollipop trees and singing scarecrows. The Gloaming is horrifying, full of manipulative noblemen, pirates, witches, and creatures that could easily settle upon you as their next meal. Randi must navigate the Gloaming, outwitting (or outrunning) a host of grotesque villains until she finds the deceptively mobile town of Cawfield—home of Math's captor, the Autumn Warlock.

Gems for Writers:
World Building. Schutt creates a deeply-twisted, mostly-horrific, Grimm-Brothers-meets-Alice-in-Wonderland-esque world called the Gloaming, which is actually the purely-psychological creation of the book's title character, Math McMannon. The world is complete with a motley cast of iconic and archetypical characters reminiscent of dark and demented fairytales, yet they are unique to the Gloaming in ways I don't want to ruin.

Flashbacks. While in the Gloaming, Randi recalls the history of hatred and resentment she holds for her father as well as giving the backstory needed to understand why both she and Math are the way they are. Sometimes the flashbacks are only in Randi's head, other times Randi is recounting stories to Ratbite; either way, they are presented as they are related to circumstances taking place in the Gloaming, really solidifying the relationship of father and daughter.

Fairytale Tie-In. I mentioned this in the first Gem, but I have to re-emphasize it: there is definitely inspiration of classic fairytales running throughout the story, but the ways in which they are presented are inventive, fresh, and slightly twisted variations of well-known stories of our childhood. The incident at the witch's house, alone, contains elements of multiple fairytales—the bit with the torture, especially, is pure genius.

Characterization. Schutt is great at characterization! We never truly meet the character of Math McMannon until the end of the book, but by the time we reach that point, we have a clear picture of the poor excuse of a father and a man. Schutt's characterization of the rest of the cast, too, is just as marvelous—each with depth, depravity, and idiosyncrasies of their own.


Schutt does a stellar job of not only creating a backstory for Randi's relationship with her father, Math, but also creating a backstory within the Gloaming that is well-developed, believable (frighteningly so), and oddly inviting. I truly enjoyed Schutt's prose, his descriptions, and his story. I highly recommend all of you give it a read and tell me what you think.

May You Find Your Own Weird,

***The Weird of Math (2013), by Matt Schutt, is published by and copyright Matt Schutt. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.

***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.

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