May 252023

FantasticLand:A Novel is a 2016 novel by Mike Bockoven. It explores what happens when Hurricane Sadie smashes into an amusement park named FantasticLand and manned by a skeleton crew of three hundred some odd employees. The park gets cut off from the rest of the world and shit goes downhill fast. People split into tribes and open warfare breaks despite every side having plenty of food, water and shelter. In the end, the National Guard arrive and gets everyone out. It is up to the public and the lawyers to figure out what really happened.

If you ever went to Disney World and wondered who would win in a fight between the employees of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the employees from Epcot, then this book is for you.

It is a very compelling book but then again, I love disaster stories. Back in 1999, I lived through the “Flood of the Century” in North Carolina and my community was without power for weeks and cut off from the rest of the state. It was a stressful time that has been burned into my mind but also gave me an intense interest in seeing how other people handle disasters. I also love watching things break down and I love watching plans run straight into the brick wall of reality. So really, this book was made for me.

The secret sauce that makes this book work is that it is presented as a series of interviews with the survivors of the disaster. That means we only get to hear the accounts of those who lived, and they have very strong reasons to either lie to the interviewer or to themselves. It is a gold mine of unreliable narrators and I am already looking forward to re-reading it to see what lies I pick out.

It is a brutal book with some brutal scenes, but I think the interview style helps distance the horror and paradoxically, make it more intimate. Imagine the worse scene you ever saw in a horror movie, and imagine that being told to you second hand. You end up paying less attention to the grisly details and pay more attention to the impact it had on the person who watched or experienced it.

Another great part of the book are the mysteries. Some characters go missing and their bodies are never found. There are two psychos dressed as Warthogs who terrorize everyone and no one discovers their identities. The actual crimes committed are still in question. The interviewed people can’t be trusted and the documentation is scarce. This uncertainty means folk will have plenty to debate and speculate on for a long time to come.

This book is going to be with me for a long time.

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