All Encompassing Trip
POS: Afterbirth Books
Price: $14.95 ($10.17 at Amazon)
This book bears re-reading to get at all the themes and influences, and I've only been through it once, so the best I can do for you here is brush the surface. Perhaps that's a good thing, however. Like any journey, everyone gets something different from the experience, and you probably wouldn't end up at the same place I did at the finish of another, deeper reading, anyway.
There's a wonderful sense of magic and fellowship in All Encompassing Trip and a definite sense of not taking oneself too damn seriously, even when things that happen are grimly serious. Self-confidence is an important part of the story, relying on your own instincts and intuition, allowing yourself to value your own judgement and not depend on someone else's permission.
There's a Tolkienesque flavor to it, too, with a fellowship that gathers and separates, some mundane and then some mystical journeys, and evil magic versus good. I'm also reminded a bit of Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys, in the way no one mythology has precedence, rather a blending and sharing of many different types, and how the mythological norms are changed by the modern setting.
The action in the book mainly takes place in Northern and Southern California and the author knows these geographies well, you get a good sense of place in the lively description. The protagonist, Nikki, and her friend Amber are good friends who met in an exercise "boot camp" where Amber is the trainer. Their world changes overnight and they are led to other companions, and through their journey, by a coyote who arrives at Nikki's door on the day of the change. He is named "Lefty" by Nikki, and he communicates to her using cryptic song lyrics. Along the way Nikki, Lefty and Amber meet a number of unusual characters, both friend and foe.
This is one of those books where attempting to give you a thorough synopsis of the story is futile. Nikki makes things disappear in her new "reality", something she finds especially distressing, because coffee is one of the things she misses the most and when she touches it whole coffee shops go poof. The passage about her flight to Anaheim is surreal in the extreme. Another example is the scene with the lunch in the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland between two 7 foot plus characters, one who is black, apparently Jamaican, and sports van Gogh tattoos, the other who is green and they're brothers. Disneyland is important to the story, the brothers are as well. Trying to give a glimpse into why, not so easy. I'm not even going to try to explain the importance of Oprah in the story.
Some of the character traits of the secondary antagonist characters are quite exaggerated. There's a woman who has an extreme Vegan, Godess worshipping, high colonic addicted, personality - and she's also very gassy and unwashed throughout the book. She and the other single minded characters are more allegorical, but they fit the overall irrationality of their place in the story, so I didn't find it distracting, just worth noting. Plus, they're pretty funny, in a Keystone Cops kind of way, as they blunder through their places in the plot.
The action is continuous; things don't bog down, and I always wanted to turn the page to see what would happen next. I felt there were moments where the point was a bit too obvious, a little preachy, but it didn't dilute my overall enjoyment of the story. What I did find disappointing, and personally could have done without, were the two afterwards. The good thing about afterwards is you've already finished the story and can decide for yourself if you want to disregard them.
Because I read an electronic copy, I'm not certain if some of the small typographical errors were an artifact of the PDF or exist in the hardcopy. There were words where the first few letters were missing scattered throughout the text. I hope this is just a problem with my PDF, otherwise it will be a bit annoying.
Overall, I enjoyed being on the All Encompassing Trip. I don't often read fantasy in a modern setting, but I think, that del Sesto has talent in that genre. I hope she keeps writing and goes far.