The Least Envied
Young Andrew is hurt when the love of his life, Bree, sends him on an assignment to the West to write the history of some nobody. The West is dusty, dirty, and blown apart, although Andrew doesn’t really know why. He assumes that’s why he and others like him are scattered throughout time recording history as objectively as possible. Luckily, they have the Anti-Paradox machine that allows these employees of The Institute to time travel without the butterfly effect coming into play. He could stomp on as many butterflies as he wanted, if he wasn’t too jaded and disinterested. After his arrival near a crude outhouse, Andrew is pulled into a confrontation with knee-high, bony, robotic creatures called wogs. They are on a mission to terrorize all the residents, and it’s not just them causing problems. The Forest Monster is looking for a woman and won’t stop until he finds her.
Andrew is disgusted when the Forest Monster shows up in the nearby town and nobody stops the abduction of some hapless girl. When he expresses his displeasure, local simpleton Billy Bob hears him. Soon enough, Andrew realizes that it is Billy Bob’s story he is supposed to be writing down for the library. Billy Bob takes off after the Forest Monster, rescues the unimportant and misidentified young lady, and then eventually takes a mission to “Go west, find Beta, be a hero, save the girl, defeat Ultimate Evil, fourteen acorns.”
DeLauder has written this story in what is essentially a round; the first three-quarters make absolutely no sense as the novel is intended to be circular. Readers will follow along as the baffled Andrew makes his way through the West following Billy Bob until all is revealed at the end. The plot is different in this sense, although it makes for slower reading since it feels rather like reading Alice in Wonderland while under the influence of a psychotropic drug.
However, anyone who enjoys basic philosophical and ethical dilemmas will rejoice because DeLauder has based the entire bones of the novel on prime tenets of both these related fields. He explores ethical responsibilities and the fluctuating impermanent goodness of humankind using delicate and deliberate word choices with expressive, detailed descriptions of the situations within which Andrew and Billy Bob find themselves. DeLauder can certainly write. This is a surreal and intellectual novel perhaps best read while smoking a pipe in an easy chair just before having a discussion with friends who are in the midst of existential crises.
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