CRYPTOFAUNA by Patrick Canning : Book Review




Amazon Synopsis: Could be his job as a janitor at an insane asylum, could be the meaninglessness of existence, could be the unwanted cilantro on his tacos. Whatever the reason, Jim has elected to commit suicide. But before he can do the deed, a mysterious resident at work equips him with a dog and a bag of ash, and throws him into a secret game known as Cryptofauna. Cryptofauna is played by Operators, persons of special abilities who battle one another to influence important events around the world. To become an Operator, Jim must survive being stranded in the Pacific Ocean, pass a bizarre examination by leprous French monks, and pluck the existential splinter from his troubled soul. If there’s time, he must also stop a rival player from ending all life on the planet. Underwater Norwegian lairs, obsession with a decent pair of socks, and shapeshifting animals obsessed with AM radio all make up the strange world of Cryptofauna, which might help Jim discover a reason to live, assuming he doesn’t die in the process.

Review: Are you ready for a wild ride?

If Alice and Wonderland and The Hitchiker’s Guide to The Galaxy had a love child, it’d be Cryptofauna. This fantasy novel creates an acid dream of lovable characters, tense twists, and a storyworld unlike any I’ve experienced. Our protagonist gets dragged through dangerous adventures, each testing his stamina until the final test is revealed.

But what is Cryptofauna? A game, of sorts. It’s a well crafted metaphor for life, but I did think it took a little too long for the characters to reveal the rules. For the first few chapters, I was very confused and while I understand the need to build tension, I wished Cryptofauna had been explained, in detail, much earlier in story.

Even so, the heart of the novel rests within our protagonist, a man on the verge of ending his life. His journey of self discovery, the supporting characters he meets along the way, and the life lessons explored through this wild game will be relatable to many readers. The imaginative way that life and death are discussed within the constraints of the game help Jim understand that some things, simply put, are not within our understanding.

This book is riddled with incredible imagery, perhaps even a little too much at times, bordering on purple prose. The pacing of the action sequences are perfect, but the reaction scenes seem a little slow at times, and there are jumps in time (a week passes, a month passes) that are a tad jarring. When they occurred, I felt a bit cheated as I was sucked into the world, caught up in the adventures, and then time simply passed. I wanted to be a part of every second. But it’s a beautiful story, funny at times, ridiculous in the best possible way, intense and action packed. But it had a deeper meaning, one that was woven into the fantasy world.

Give this book a try! It’s a little dense at time, the exposition is a little heavy every now-and-then, but not so much that you’ll put the book down. Overall, a fantastic adventure! 4 stars

Buy it here: Amazon

(I was given this book for consideration in return for an honest review)