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Wolf in White Van
by John Darnielle


Overview -

The New York Times Bestseller
Long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award in fiction
Winner of the 2015 Alex Award for adult books with special appeal for young adults

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival You may now make your first move.  Read more...


 
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More About Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
 
 
 
Overview

The New York Times Bestseller
Long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award in fiction
Winner of the 2015 Alex Award for adult books with special appeal for young adults

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian--a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail--Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.

Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.

Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean's life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374292089
  • ISBN-10: 0374292086
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
  • Publish Date: September 2014
  • Page Count: 207
  • Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Psychological

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-06-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

In his incantatory debut, Darnielle (of the indie band the Mountain Goats) captures the allure and danger of being in thrall to a mythic vision. Lying in the hospital recovering from a gruesome wound, Sean conceives of a mail-based strategy game in a “fury of assembly,” building out an “idle little dream in a small dead space.” In the game’s scenario, players head across an apocalyptic landscape in search of sanctuary at the Trace Italian, a star-shaped fort on the “wasted Kansas plain.” With each successive choice, players find themselves further along a “path than can belong only to them.” Darnielle doles out just enough information about the game to give it texture without stripping it of its mystery. The appeal lies in decoding the landscape, scanning for “little details” that reveal a larger pattern and might eventually allow players to figure out the impenetrable safe harbor. When one young couple’s attempt to find the Trace Italian in real life leads them to a fatal “terminus” in the desert, Sean revisits his own dark history. He tracks back through the branching series of choices that led to his disfiguring injury, the creation of the game, and the couple’s tragic end. Through it all the Trace looms, a monumental symbol for a supple novel. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A gamer's need for escape

Who is Sean Phillips? And how did he end up like this?

That’s the central conceit of John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, a compact but wide-ranging novel that follows Sean’s development from unpopular teenager to reclusive adult.

Sean is the founder of Focus Games, and while he has several works to his credit, he’s best known for Trace Italian. The concept for the game came to him while he was hospitalized after suffering a gunshot wound as a teen. The noise surrounding Sean—both in his head and coming from an endless stream of doctors, social workers and his well-meaning parents—was difficult to block out. To escape, Sean retreated into himself, envisioning a desolate Midwestern landscape and a treasure that beckons.

Upon leaving the hospital, Sean creates a roleplay-by-mail game, which allows him a livelihood even while he hides his disfigured face from the world. Players select their moves and send Sean directives in letters, carefully considering their options even as they become increasingly entangled in the fictional world of his imagination.

Fans of other game-oriented novels, such as Ready Player One, may be drawn to this intriguing tale, as it too focuses on an enthralling game and how it affects both its players and creator. But the parallels stop there. Perhaps mimicking Trace Italian, first-time novelist and musician Darnielle (Mountain Goats) carries readers through a labyrinthine unveiling of events. As he writes, Darnielle peels back layers to reveal Sean’s character, the game’s play and the storylines that have developed around his game. The result is a tale as complex as the songs for which Darnielle is loved.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews