Our pal (and Total Reroll DM) Ian likes books. Here is what he thought of one of them.
This novel begins with killer bees and perfume in New Mexico and potions in the woods of Maine, and transforms into an adventure road trip as our hero Eugenie and her husband Benoît fleece casinos and try to plan their escape from America.
Eugenie and her twin Camille are the adopted daughters (or hostages…) of the enigmatic Dr Vargas. After their mother’s untimely demise to aforementioned bees, they are raised in the wilds of New England in a sprawling house with armed guards and a routine of esoteric training. Dr Vargas teaches gymnastics, science and survivalism, but in the woods they practice a patchwork of witchcraft and spiritualism, autodidact savants of potions and omens, rituals pieced together from their keeper’s quixotic library. Camille is the leader, the brains, the unerring strength and resistance against Dr Vargas’s barbaric regimen. Inexorably confrontation ensues, and in the end Eugenie is free and Dr Vargas defied- but Camille is gone…
The majority of the book follows Eugenie and her husband Benoît as they scramble across America. She has been unsuccessful in finding Camille, but is ever drawn onwards in that search, and in Benoît has found someone who accepts her scattershot mysticism and science and inscrutable motivations. We are plunged into a vortex of drugs and music and casual acquaintances, tribes of ravers and backwoods farmers, snakes and guns and half-remembered arcane rituals. Always, Eugenie is seeking Camille.
Dodge and Burn presents us with a narrative of a world with layers beyond what we can see, connections and synchronicities and patterns and abilities that belay the doldrums of the scientific method. In the end, there is a choice to make- which narrative is true? Eugenie’s visions and magic realism, or the harsh reality of Dr Vargas?
The novel is not without issues. The abundant drug-use as adjuvant to Eugenie’s mysticism actually somewhat undermines her worldview. Benoît feels somewhat underdeveloped, a simple creature utterly accepting of the narrator’s whims and oddities, though this is perhaps a relic of following Eugenie’s personal viewpoint. The final reveal in the novel is not much of a surprise, and perhaps could have been utilised earlier to more effect. These are in sum minor issues that only subtly detract from a very enjoyable novel, and indeed the pacing is such that it isn’t until the ending that you begin to question these moments.
The absorbing narrative, impressive imagery, and plethora of memorable scenes make Dodge and Burn an enjoyable and compelling read- it is a surreal trip laden with wonderful research and convincing emotion. As the first release from new indie press Dodo Ink it bodes well for their upcoming ventures and for whatever Seraphina Madsen decides to turn her hand to next.
Verdict: 8 Killer Bees out of 10