Review: Stumbling Stoned – The Patchwork Prince

By A. Van Wyck

Link to Amazon:

Reviewed by De Gevallene, October 2020

This strange, rule-breaking, hallucinatory book left me asking “so what is a novel then?” I wasn’t sure if it was one.

In some ways it was like a comic – populated by cartoon characters with a lot of action, each frame bringing another pow or zap. Like a comic, the characters were strictly two dimensional: there were none who seemed deeper than the paper, and in place of emotions there appeared to be only physical pain or discomfort (of which our hero suffers plenty) or its merciful relief (ditto, mainly achieved through access to drugs).  It had a narrative objective, though even that wasn’t clear till near the end: our amnesic drug-dumbed hero is trying to find himself, discover who he is; he is also keen – in at least a half hearted sub-plot way – to rescue a pretty heiress.  And it had plenty of events – an endlessly spiraling roller coaster of action: abductions, murders, escapes, carcrashes, assaults, encounters with thugs, Mafiosi, witches, zombies… I could go on.  The adventure starts and ends in a psychiatric hospital and one is invited – though not required – to speculate that the whole thing is a dream, and that our drug-fueled hero, throughout, is lying on his hospital mattress, dreaming or hallucinating.

Dreams – I’m sorry Alice – don’t make good stories. Nor do hallucinations.  The problem is partly that one is disinclined to care: our hero will wake or come to his senses sooner or later, and what happens in between is a fiction within a fiction and that’s further than empathy goes.  But there’s also the the problem of lack of constraints.  Constraints – rules about how things work within the natural or supernatural world of the story, limits to what is possible – are the fixed points from which the obstacle course of a plot can be constructed, and the boundaries within which the plot is kept sharp and tight. If there are no constraints and anything can happen – as in a dream or a hallucination – then a plot becomes simply a lax series of events, a picaresque wandering around, in which obstacles emerge without meaning and dissolve without resolution.

It is a cleverly written book, certainly – the prose is mercurial, every paragraph offering a startling, shocking, or simply delicious turn of phrase.  In a short story or a comedy sketch or an anecdote that would have been enough.  But in 319 pages, it didn’t sustain me.

Stumbling Stoned (The Patchwork Prince) A Van Wyck

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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. I purchased the book myself.

The Blurb:

State-sponsored drugs in the megaton range. More rice pudding than I could shake a spork at. And a little padded terrarium of my very own.

If you’d told me yesterday that, come morning, I’d be hunted by the police, the mob, the supernatural (and a cat), I’d have laughed in your face. Granted, I’d have laughed in your face regardless (Clozapine gives me the giggles). Then I’d have gone looking for your flying DeLorean in the nuthouse parking lot.

An epic misadventure involving drugs, sorcery, cannibalism, love and other necessary evils.

Praise for Stumbling Stoned:

“This rapid-fire blast through the life of an apparent madman is dangerously and addictively intoxicating.”

~ The BookLife Prize (Semi-finalist) 2018

“A vivid story of recovery, defeat, transformation, and monsters both real and imagined.”

~ Midwest Book Review, D. Donovan

Author bio:

A. van Wyck

André van Wyck is a South African-born writer and law school graduate. Despite the hardships of earning coffee money, and in between yelling at Duolingo, he perseveres at his passion: writing.

“When I started The Waking Worlds series, it was as an exercise in exorcism – a way to rid myself of this ‘writing nonsense’ and get back to my nine-to-five… It did not work out so well.”

His debut novel, A Clatter of Chains, published on Amazon’s Kindle Store in 2016. The supposed palate cleanser (before starting the second installment) turned into a book in its own right and delayed publication of A Fray of Furies considerably. Stumbling Stoned was published in 2018 and advanced to the semi-finals of the vaunted Booklife Prize.

André lives in Luxembourg, with his Industrial Psychologist wife and imaginary pet rock.