I-35, a recent release from Detox Press, is the debut novel from author Brett Selmont. Selmont’s protagonist, David, follows the north-south American highway on a wild ride that starts out in search of his missing sibling, but quickly takes a detour into surrealistic territory.
A fast-paced read, I-35 at times feels more like a short story that may have gone on too long, or a novel that should have been fleshed out much more to come up to its mythic intentions. Anti-hero David is also, unfortunately, the least interesting and sympathetic character in the novel. He runs across a variety of seedy and downright creepy characters on his travels. David was orphaned young, and is estranged from his only sibling, his brother Jim. He wakes up one morning in the back of his car, in freezing Minneapolis, near to where his brother and sister-in-law live. There is a horrible, frightening, garbled message on his phone from Jim, but no other clues to their whereabouts. David embarks on a search for his brother, but quickly gets sidetracked by his own volent outbursts and a beautiful girl named Shawna.
There are echoes of old-school noir writing, and especially Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but unfortunately without the humor. Selmont feels compelled to meticulously describe just about every place David visits, every bar and gas station, no matter how decrepit or disgusting. He writes well, but all of the depictive prose may wear down even the most fervent fan of nihilistic fiction.
With a real zero for a hero, the main interest in the story lies in the complicated Shawna, the only character the author or David shows any real affection for. When she is not on the scene, I-35 suffers. In future, Selmont might want to try less to shock his readers with gross-out violence and unsympathetic heroes, and consider concentrating on more original and fanciful characters such as Shawna.
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