The Quest for Truth by Jonathan-David Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gives a totally new meaning to the term egging...
The Quest for Truth is book two in the Paranoia trilogy by Jonathan-David Jackson. Oscar Well, having narrowly survived the hostile Red Fist takeover of his town and state through shear luck and paranoid overreaction, is hiding out with his new best friend, Hodge, and his new girlfriend, Penelope. But they cannot hide forever. Red Fist is searching for them. In fact, they could be watching right now.
When I read the first in this series, I wasn't sure which direction a sequel might take. The Quest for Juice went from the ramblings of a paranoid man trying to track down the mysterious man named Ron, who stole his favorite orange juice off the shelves, to a surreal conspiracy proving to Oscar that his paranoia may not be all that far off. Now that I've read number two, I'm happy to report that it did in fact take a direction, and that direction was just as twisty, unpredictable, and absurd (in a good way) as the first.
Before getting into my favorite characters or my opinions about the plot, I'd like to mention the footnotes, which I realize I left out of my review of the first book. These spice an already humorous book with off-hand comments and asides that make these stories hazardous to read in public (if you value your reputation as a sane person). I found myself giggling uncontrollably before getting more than a few pages in, and I even had my son read those initial pages so he'd know his mother wasn't, in fact, losing her mind. My advice is to follow those links as soon as you come to them in the story, don't even finish the paragraph, just follow.
As for characters, I must say I'm pleased that Mr. Hodge plays such a big role in this story. Mr. Hodge is a hedgehog (the cover promises more hedgehog, and it delivers). He's also Oscar's conscience. I'm not certain if this was intended, but it's definitely how it plays out. I love how Mr. Hodge enforces his advice, though I'm pretty sure Oscar doesn't. It's also fantastic that there's another charismatic critter in this one. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil the surprise.
I think another cool thing about this book is that it pits people that are different, in particular the mentally ill, against superior forces that want nothing less than their complete and ultimate destruction. In the story, some of these disorders take on superhuman proportions (my favorite is the one that makes enemies feel minty fresh), though others are more mundane disorders like cleptomania and many are downright silly.
But, the underlying plot is that these people are being targeted by Red Fist specifically because they are different. They are being captured, experimented upon, and killed, all with the goal of ultimately purifying the human race of the genes that caused their conditions. There are some parallels that can be drawn to certain real-life events, making this story chilling in places. Sure, the humorous approach makes this an entertaining read, but the underlying plot is sinister and all the more scary because it could and has happened before (if not targeting this particular element of humanity).
So, overall, The Quest for Truth is a hilarious yet frightening book. Adult humor, gore, and mental instability color everything in this story. So, in short, this is not a book for kids. However, adults who enjoy books that embrace the absurd, who like hedgehogs, and who like a good bit of action will likely enjoy this story and its predecessor, The Quest for Juice. I eagerly await book three, The Quest for Nothing in Particular.
I received a copy of this book as an ARC from the author.
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