I wanted to write a little mini-review of a series of books I've been reading as they've been coming out, by this fellow Eddie Drueding (here's his author page at Melange publishing; also, his personal website: http://animalstory.ca/), called Arraborough. The author has actually been sending me pre-prints of these books, and in exchange I review them on Amazon and wherever else I happen to be active. Yes: he does still send them to me even though it seems to take me months to get through them and then post any given review, due to my inability to manage my sparse amount of free time. But I'm glad he does, because I'm actually really fond of the series.
Arraborough is a little hard to explain, because it's extremely dense in terms of plot. There's about a million characters, each of which is developed and given ample time as the series goes on, and so there end up being about a million little plot threads woven into the over-arching plot, which itself is very complicated. But basically, there's a group of travelers (some snakes, some pigs, a turtle, and a chicken) who find this lovely little spot in the woods that draws them in, and they decide to build a town there. They all have cute names like Slither Snake and Tust Turtle and Wild Hog, and the first chunk of the series is playful and fun. Feels a bit like a children's book. Slither is this idealistic, good-natured guy who really wants to build himself and his friends a little utopia out in the woods, and as the book goes on, this utopia attracts a whole host of new characters, each with their own reasons for wanting to get away from it all.
But there's this whole huge aura of mystery around the whole thing, right from the get-go. There's a house at the edge of their settlement that won't open its door to anyone but this blue cat, who seems to have a history with this place. There's also a squirrel who acts like a very young child, except he knows a whole lot of stuff you wouldn't expect a child to know, and he appears and disappears like a ghost. He tells them not to ever go underground, into the series of caves nearby, but he doesn't tell them why. So despite the playful nature, there's this sort of weird dark undercurrent going on, and there aren't too many hints about where any of this is going to lead. You're not even entirely sure what genre it's supposed to be, because it feels like fantasy, but then you start reading about cities and cars and laboratories and all these other modern things, so you wonder if it might not actually be science fiction, or maybe something else.
As the series goes on, and as some of the mysteries are revealed, the tone changes quite a bit, gets a whole heck of a lot darker. Slither mostly wanted to get away because his family is involved with the mafia. There was a pretty awful war that just got over with that everyone is still recovering from. And so on and so forth. And from there, every little mystery that gets revealed just brings up even more questions, until you're heavily involved in this incredibly detailed little world.
It's not the most well-written series of books I've ever read, from a technical standpoint, but that does very little for me to detract from the crux of it, and I've really grown quite fond of the whole series. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it, and for me, it fits right into the bill of things I love to see in novels: complex plot and characters that keeps you guessing, a playful nature juxtaposed with some serious shit and some adult themes, that sort of questionable merging of science fiction and fantasy (in a way that totally works), lots of thought-provoking themes interspersed all throughout, and, of course, leads that are not human (I guess, from the disclaimer that Mr. Drueding puts at the beginning of each book, that they're essentially non-human animals that walk on two legs, have thumbs, and hide their private parts under a smooth flap of skin and fur/scales... so, yeah, another kind of unusual premise).
So why am I writing this review? Well, because so far as I'm aware, very few people know of this series' existence, and I wanted to help spread the word a little more, because I really do think it could use a larger fanbase, or at least a healthy cult following. If you're looking for something very different and 100% not mainstream for your next fiction read, give this series a look and see what you think. I don't know if you'll love it or hate it or something in between, but you know. I personally think it's pretty great, so if that's worth anything to you, spend $5 on the Kindle version and give it a read.