Review: “Day 9,” Robert Jeschonek

Pros: Vivid and original
Cons: Pointlessly bizarre; plot holes; unlikable characters
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Robert Jeschonek’s Day 9: A Novel is certainly… original. There are two parallel narratives going on. In one, an author named Dunne has teamed up with an actress named Hannahlee in order to find the TV producer (Cyrus Gowdy) who created an old cult TV show called Weeping Willows. They need his signature on a form in order to make a new movie based on the old TV show, and Dunne will write the script. The problem is, the producer’s been missing for years, and the pair will have to make a deep dive into the fan community to find any trace of him. This is immediately made enormously more dangerous and exciting by the presence of a serial killer. The killer believes he’s War Willow, one of the characters from the TV show, and he’s killing people who are impersonating his family–in this case, the actors from the old show. The creator is also one of his targets, so Dunne and Hannahlee have to find Gowdy first, without leading the killer to him. The parallel narrative is set in the late 1800s and is narrated by a sentient cathedral that’s being built. Also, the Amish figure into this. No, I’m not kidding.

Okay. That sentient cathedral. Having finished the book, I still can’t come up with a good reason why that plotline exists. I mean, the existence of the cathedral is sort of brought back into the main plotline, but the sentience of it isn’t, especially in a world where nothing else explicitly magical happens. The sentience could have been stripped out and it wouldn’t have affected anything concrete. In fact, the story would have made more sense.

The narrative is extremely vivid; I have great mental images of nearly everything that happened. That’s impressive. Also, the basic ideas are quite original. (Seriously, despite my problems with it, who thinks of something like a sentient cathedral?! That’s new!) Unfortunately those are really the only things I liked about the book. The characters are fairly unlikable. In particular, the fan crowd (part of the early narrative takes place at a convention) is relentlessly portrayed as pervy and crazy and obsessed with semi-incestuous slashfic.

SPOILER WARNING: Skip this paragraph if you don’t want any details spoiled. There are a few unexplained plot holes in here. How did a nice Amish boy manage to get hold of plastic explosives and wire himself up with a bomb on a dead-man’s switch? How did a TV producer build an entire city in the desert on the down-low? In an otherwise no-magic setting, how is a cathedral sentient? What’s up with the ridiculously high prevalence of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder? Why would a guy who’s actively trying to be found go to such huge lengths not to be found? Also, there’s a line in the Amazon description of the book that reads, “Somewhere in the world, a genius builds a machine to bring mankind closer to God.” However, this plot shows up for all of two minutes and then gets dropped. End spoiler warning.

Day 9 didn’t make me want to read anything more by the author. However, if you care more about reading something new and unusual than you do about narrative consistency, or you’re looking for something original and surreal, this might be the right book for you. The basic writing skills are there–the story just has some holes.

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