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Crime Rave Paperback – October 17, 2015
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Sezín Koehler is a novelist, Huffington Post blogger, and repatriated Third Culture Kid living in a sleepy Florida beach town with her husband. Her short fiction has been featured in the Ghostwoods Books anthology RED PHONE BOX, and her non-fiction has been featured on Sociological Images, Ms. Magazine, Al Jazeera, Racialicious, Pacific Standard, and TV Guide Magazine.
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Where Marilyn Monroe never “accidentally overdosed”, and went on to bring down a political dynasty.
Where aliens, vampires, mutants, gods and goddesses exist - and not always amicably.
And above them all, the Mother struggles to protect and preserve the Earth and Her peoples from the murderous machinations of a potential usurper to Her throne.
This is the world of Sezin Koehler’s Crime Wave. And we’ve only just scratched the surface.
Part urban fantasy-horror, part police procedural, plus a whole lot more, Crime Rave is technically a sequel to Sezin’s earlier American Monsters, but in truth it stands alone and doesn't require you to read the previous work (but you should still do it anyway, it’s a potent work in its own right), Crime Rave opens in the Hollywood Hills, where tens of thousands of ravers have been mysteriously wiped out by an unknown force, a wave of lost souls which we will learn later have gone to feed a most malevolent celestial entity.
But not all those who attended the rave were killed. There were a few survivors - and a few more by the parts that are inexplicably regenerating... LAPD detectives Synthia Günn and Atticus Red Feather are assigned to interview the survivors are trying to make sense of the insensible.
Which won't be easy, when the survivors included 300 year-old vampire, a wolf girl, a cyclopean teenager with the power to turn people and things to stone, aliens, and a whole lot more.
But Günn and Red Feather find they must leave behind their preconceived notions of reality quickly, because their parahuman survivors have attracted the attention of a clandestine agency who collect such beings like Pokémon cards, and will do whatever it takes to Collect Them All...
Apart from the highly imaginative background and diverse cast of characters, what sets Crime Rave above other works for me is the cinematic sweeping pace, how easily Sezin’s descriptions bring the characters and their actions to life. As I read it, I could see it all happening, hear the voices - and watch the carnage.
But there’s more to the story. The best, most lasting horror goes beyond the surface, where monsters are more than just what you see. The parahumans, good, bad and all shades between, have many different origins - but most if are victims. Victims of physical, mental, sexual abuse, victims of sick individuals and sick societies.
And while the characters in Crime Rave still react to their traumas in ways we expect - denial, escape, rage - they can also manifest powers to help them cope. Who wouldn’t want to produce indestructible steel throwing blades from their skin?
But you don't need to be deep into it to enjoy Crime Rave, because it stands on its own as a rollicking good read. And it’s just aching for a sequel - Hint hint!
This "raver zombie" novel is a brilliant allegory for contemporary, hot button issues. I used excerpts from this novel to teach a unit to one of my adult ESL classes, which is comprised of survivors of gender-based violence. While many of the older women were confused by the cultural references, during discussion we talked about how in the novel, the backlash from the idea of zombies/survivors fighting back against crime is reminiscent of some people who dismiss rape or survivors of other brutal crimes and feminists/womanists as "hysterical" when they speak out, thereby invalidating the substance of their advocacy or activism. As one of my women said, "This book understands me. This is like how I feel when (insert name of a controversial T. V. host) says females should not be in a debate about school rapes because they get too emotional". When I jokingly asked my class, "So you mean to say survivors are zombies?", a few women nodded. One of the women expressed the exact same reaction I had when I first read the novel: survivors with PTSD are like the raver zombies who are forever changed by a brutal crime or disaster, walking in a haze. Even through the haze and mechanical motions of living---struggling to survive---zombies and survivors with PTSD are still empowered to do good. They can still save themselves and rebuild themselves.
Also worth noting is Koehler's author's note, where she speaks at length about her motivation in writing about an indigenous character (Atticus Red Feather) . She acknowledges that some readers might find it a form of cultural appropriation at best and a form of fetishism at worst. I can only speak for myself as a hapa chick with indigenous roots that her note, while appreciated and respected, was not necessary because she wrote Atticus in a non-CA and non-fetishist way. She wrote Atticus as a badass, imperfect yet kind human being rather than the frequent mainstream portrayal of NDN males as either the wise, spiritual, dances with wolves and sage smudging grandpa or the troubled, handsome, stoic warrior bad boy. Her Atticus is brave, snarky, funny, skeptical, smart... Human. He is a well-rounded character who could easily be your uncle or even yourself. In other words, it is refreshing to read about indigenous folks who are written as real human beings rather than as noble/ignoble savages. So kudos to Koehler on that!
TL; DR. "Crime Rave" is the kind of book that has so many different layers. Though at first read it may seem like just a horror fantasy book, as you get deeper into the novel you will find yourself surprised at how much you connect and relate to the book on a human level. By using fantastical elements, the essence of the human spirit---
empowerment in brokenness---is made all the more apparent. All appendages up for this novel!
Without giving away too much, let's just say it's an entertaining contrast to see straight-up/normal type characters dealing with some crazy events -- it really draws you into their corner. You'll be rooting for them to adapt, succeed and evolve.
What grounds this fantastical tale is the weaving of believable, familiar evils throughout. The threat of these complex, likable "monsters" is frightening, but it pales to the crimes of the humans. Humans that have so much more power to exploit -- and get away with their horrors.
The juicy cliff hanger at the end will have you wondering if, or how, this dynamic might change (in a sequel).
***Oh, and I almost forgot to add the thing that sets this apart from most sci-fi/fantasy -- most of the characters are women! Aaaand, the storyline deals with misogyny. Very cool! ***
Overall, a fun read for those who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, as well as crime stories -- and who crave a story that has some complex female characters.
(Warning: contains violence/gore, but it's not at all gratuitous or OTT for the genre).