Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

“Everyone has a boss,” […]. “I just learned who mine is, and I regret it, because there’s no going back. It won’t let you go back. Don’t give it a reason to write you another storyline, just finish this one up and be done with it.”

Telling stories has always been part of Misha’s life and he’s pretty good at it. His current show, a sci-fi mystery series, Travelers, is headed into its third season and his short film about a mouse has been nominated for an Oscar. When Misha is suddenly called into his boss’ office for a meeting, he’s pretty sure it’s just going to be a few notes on the new season, maybe some congratulations for the nomination. What he doesn’t expect is for Jack to tell him to kill off his characters.

Agents Lexa and Naomi, the stars of Travelers, have been in a will-they-won’t-they relationship for two seasons, and Misha was planning for season three to cement their romance. Now, Jack’s telling him has to either make one of them straight, or kill them off. Misha, of course, refuses, leaving the office in a fury. He can’t help but feel betrayed that Jack doesn’t believe in him, that he is letting some think-tank change his story because some poll says the numbers do better without Lexa and Naomi being allowed to be in love, and it pisses Misha off.

While venting to his best friend, Tara, at a cafe, Misha is accosted by a fan who looks just like a character from one of his movies: The Smoker. He is a monstrous, supernatural killer who promises to be seeing Misha in five days … when he comes to kill him. Misha has no idea what the fuck is going on, but he’s soon moving from anger to terror because The Smoker isn’t alone. While flying back home for a high school reunion, Misha sees Mrs. Why, a seven-foot tall alien whose touch destroys the minds and souls of those around her. Mrs. Why is a character on Travelers who shouldn’t … can’t … be real, but whose touch is killing the passengers around her as she struggles to get to Misha. And let’s not forget the Black Lamb, an eldritch creature from one of his early films, who stares at him with blank, wide eyes on a jogging path.

Is this a stunt by the studio to make him kill his characters? Is this just some prank by fans having a good time? Because the third option — that this is real — is too ridiculous and too frightening to be believed.

This book is a murder mystery wrapped in a horror novel, with some very visceral, gory moments and some wonderfully tragic ones. Misha has always looked at the world with a writer’s eye, seeing people — such as his boss, Jack, or Tara, or even his boyfriend Zeke — through the roles they fill: the sassy friend, the devoted boyfriend, the blustering but good natured boss. And yet, they’re still people. Jack and Tara and Zeke are all integral parts of Misha’s life, and when someone threatens them, he’s there to … well, to do his best. Even if it isn’t good enough.

There’s a scene where Jack’s life is being threatened and Misha, knowing he’s not a physically inclined individual, tries to bolster himself up by thinking “how would an action star handle this?” He tries to put himself in the mindset of a character who can do the things he wants to do, needs to do, to give him the courage to move. And yet, when it comes to being open with who he is when he’s not pretending to be a character, Misha tends to simply want to be invisible. It’s easier to people watch when you’re not a part of the crowd, but apart from it.

That invisibility, Misha’s desire to stay safe, leads to him heading to his high school reunion without Zeke, because Misha isn’t out, doesn’t feel safe telling everyone that he has a boyfriend. He knows this hurts Zeke, even as he apologizes for it. And Zeke, for his part, is understanding. Zeke is here for the long haul, expecting if not to be brought for the twenty-year anniversary, then maybe to come along for the fifty. Because he loves Misha. Misha leans on that love, sees Zeke as his rock, as one of the good things in his life. Their romance, while not the focus of the story, is made of warm and lovely moments sprinkled through the book, much as Misha’s relationship with Tara, an outspoken black, asexual woman who is more sarcasm and cutting wit than ‘sassy.’ She both supports and mocks Misha, loves him enough to yell at him when he needs it, and trusts him enough to run to him for help when she needs it.

I settled down to read this book after dinner. As it grew later, I thought .. one more page. I mean, I have to get to the end of the chapter. Then it was “one more chapter” and, before I knew it it, was two in the morning and I’d finished the book. The author has a gift in making this book just so approachable and readable and smooth. The pace was constant, with no lulls or slow moments, and the tension was on point, with a quiet and character-driven focus that kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. Really, this was just so much fun to read.

Joyfully Jay