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Stay Crazy Paperback – August 3, 2016
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About the Author
Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats. Stay Crazy is her first novel.
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Top customer reviews
One of the great strengths of this book, and particularly relevant to the theme of schizophrenia, is the foundation of the plot. A voice tells Em that the entire world is in danger and only she can save it. That's strong call to adventure if there ever was one, but how can she know that it's real? Hearing voices is a common symptom of schizophrenia, after all, and the author is quite happy to leave the matter as uncertain for the reader as it is for the protagonist through most of the book.
To sum up: this is one of those rare books that strikes the perfect balance between cynical absurdity and heartfelt sincerity. You're doing yourself a disservice if you miss out on it.
I started late and only finished at 2:30am, and I enjoyed every minute. Satifka doesn't waste too much time getting us to Savertown USA, the Walmart-like superstore where all the action happens, but by that time she's already established our main character Em well enough that we understand where she's coming from and can usually tell a hallucination from reality. Usually.
The plot is fun if occasionally predictable, but the greatest strength of Stay Crazy is its incredible depiction of paranoid delusions and the way those delusions mix with the sci-fi element to keep both Em and the reader off their game. Once we've accepted that there is an interdimensional being talking to Em, and another one making people kill themselves, every subsequent delusion becomes at least somewhat plausible. Escodex says there's an evil mind-controlling entity around somewhere, but he doesn't know exactly where. Could it be the TV quack psychiatrist Wes Summersby? Maybe! The reverend who leads Jackie's cultish church? Quite possibly! Is Em being paranoid? Absolutely.
I don't have much experience with schizophrenia, but working with dementia patients I have witnessed plenty of clinical-level paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations up close and personal. I have also been present for manic episodes among friends. At least from my limited experience as a witness and caregiver, the depictions in Stay Crazy ring true. There are plenty of times when Em sees and hears things that aren't there, and she knows they're not there, but that doesn't make them any less distressing. Boy have I seen that with some Parkinson's patients. There are times when her practical concerns are overwhelmed by mania and magical thinking. I've seen that too, and at least from the outside, Satifka's writing looks spot-on.
The premise is great, the execution is great, the book is great. Highly recommended.