#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Titan (September 4, 2018)
Length: 288 pages
Occupy Me was probably one of the chanciest books I have ever attempted to read, knowing full well from the blurb and countless reviews how strange and bizarre it would be. I’ve made it no secret that I don’t always do well with “weird” books. But still, I decided to give it a try because I was in the mood for something a little outside of the box, and I was also curious to see what the science fiction literary awards circuit had been raving about.
And wow, what a trip this was. I’m not even sure how to describe the story, so I’m going to let the publisher description do most of the talking: “A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world.” Pearl is the woman with wings in question, an “angel” who works for a nebulous organization known as the Resistance. Posing undercover as a flight attendant, improving the world a little bit at a time with small incremental acts of kindness, she secretly hides an uncanny past and is determined to track down a killer responsible for pulling her out of her dimension and trapping her here on this earthly realm.
However, the killer is actually her prey wearing another man’s body. Dr. Sorle is not Dr. Sorle, for he has someone else living inside him. He is also in possession of an ordinary looking briefcase that is in fact an interdimensional gateway defying all the rules of time and space—an item which Pearl is in desperate need to get a hold of, for only then will she be able to unlock the mystery of herself and find her way home. But the briefcase isn’t going to yield its secrets freely, nor is Sorle willing to relinquish it that easily. Released from the Resistance, Pearl is forced to embark on her quest alone, chasing down this unpredictable madman and his freaky briefcase that can open into any number of dimensions, allowing all kinds of creatures to escape.
Obviously, if you’re looking for a coherent and straightforward story, you’re not really going to get that here. Occupy Me is mind-bendingly weird, there’s no doubt about that. Thing is, it’s not exactly weird in the “I’ve eaten a bunch of mushrooms and I’m all tripped out” kind of sense. I would say it’s more weird in the way that a lot of people find anime “weird”. The book is certainly contained in its own eccentric, quirky little world, and like all unfamiliar and odd things, it takes getting used to. The plot itself is actually quite easy to follow, and I enjoyed it immensely once I fell into the rhythm of not expecting anything to conform to reality. For me, I think that happened around the time a fucking pterosaur flew out of the briefcase.
Still, I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from there. I struggled plenty to wrap my head around a lot of the ideas and crazy concepts to spring forth from the hyper-imaginative mind of Tricia Sullivan, but I will say, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. While everything about the book was unusual, I also thought it was highly entertaining and even humorous in many places. Pearl is a hoot to follow with her unique personality and background, not to mention her forthright way with words. Never knowing what to expect around the next corner meant at no time did I find myself caught in a dull moment, and I always felt on guard trying to prepare myself for whatever strange surprise might pop up next.
Needless to say, it’s very difficult to recommend books like Occupy Me. Because they are so different and unusual, they may only appeal to a thin slice of the speculative fiction audience. All the same though, I feel that they also demand a certain level of admiration, if nothing else for being so boldly imaginative and fearless in defying genre expectations and convention. This novel is most certainly not for everyone, but if you’re looking to shake up your reading with something outside your comfort zone—something that might twist your mind and kick your imagination into high gear—then it might be worth a look.