Going Bovine is crazy in every way that is good. It is one of those books that as soon as you read the surreal plot you just have to check out. Here is the part that cinched this as a must-read for me:
With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.Going Bovine is Libba Bray's first standalone novel after the huge success of her Historical Young Adult Gemma Doyle trilogy, but this is quite different in that it is set in modern Texas yet still YA, although it more than passes as an adult novel. Bovine centers on Cameron who is a 16 year-old coasting through life. He is not really enjoying anything or anyone, especially when he is getting stoned just to numb him from life. If anything he runs from the chance of having any semblance of life as he is his own worst enemy.
Than tragedy strikes as Cameron is mysteriously diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease or better known as Mad Cow Disease and slowly starts to lose control of his body and mind. Flashes of oddness happen to him including visions of Dulcie, a punk girl with wings who may or may not be a Guardian Angel. As his disease worsens Cam ends up in the hospital where he is befriended by a fellow high schooler who also happens to be a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo. Gonzo has some of the best dialogue as he is afraid of nearly everything from hotel rooms to diner food.
From the hospital Dulcie starts Cameron on an adventure to save the world, himself, and to get a life. With a whining Gonzo he travels from Texas to Florida in search of Dr. X who may have the answers to all of Cameron's problems, including the meaning of life. Along the way they pick up a smart talking yard gnome who could be the Norse god Balder tricked by Loki into the gnome form. Or Cam could just be crazy and think the gnome is talking to him. Either way this is a laugh riot with a surprisingly large amount of heart. My only complaints are that the road trippers' time in The Big Easy was far too short and the ending felt a tad rushed. It could be I didn't want the adventure to end.
I could not put Going Bovine down as it is one of the most unusual and funny books I've read this or any year. There are dollops of String Theory, Worm Holes, and an inter-dimensional time traveling Inuit rock band kind of like the Beatles all along the way, which should please most Sci-Fi fans who wouldn't normally read this type of book. And Balder is a huge treat for Norse fans. I give Going Bovine 9.5 out of 10 Hats. If you ever wanted to see what Douglas Adams could do with a story somewhat more grounded on Earth this is as close as you'll get. Be sure to check out the video below of the author. Who couldn't laugh at a woman willing to wear a cow costume on the streets of NYC. She reminds me a lot of a female John Hodgman.
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Review copy provided by Delacorte Press