REVIEW: Archelon Ranch
Archelon Ranch is very good metafiction with a bizarro sense of style. I’m usually wary of metafiction. To me it usually comes off as gimmicky and self-important. But of course there are good meta stories out there, and Archelon Ranch is one of those stories. It’s set in a gigantic dystopian city of violent authority, hyper-consumerism, and dinosaurs. Society is bound by the Narrative, which is almost like a religious philosophy. People in this story are aware that there is a Garrett Cook and that he’s the God of this world.
One character, Bernard, might just be the messiah if he can get outside of the city. His brother, Clyde, is intent on stopping him. Bernard has been the subject of an experiment to create perfect Objectivity. As a result, Bernard’s consciousness shifts around, able to totally empathize with anyone or anything around him. He may be the messiah (or “the Protagonist”), but Bernard just wants to get out of the city and find Archelon Ranch so he can live in peace. Clyde, however, doesn’t think Bernard should be the main character of this story, and sets out after Bernard to stop him from ever reaching his goal.
From that high concept, Garrett Cook (the real-life author) just cuts loose. He pushes this story along while his characters struggle and rebel against their place in it. It all leads up to a really good ending as Bernard and Clyde finally meet Garrett Cook himself. Bernard’s burden as the Protagonist is traditionally difficult and long, but Cook also gives an honest portrayal of Clyde’s role as “second fiddle”. Clyde isn’t as special as Bernard, but his outrage about that is justified.
This book is weird, but it’s a challenging sort of weird. Garrett Cook tells a story that’s basically about himself but also about humanity. He has a real love for the “second fiddle” characters, because that’s what all of us are. And like real people, this story has a genuine heart wrapped in layers of fear, insecurity, jealousy, violence, and horror. With its insane concept and bizarro imagery, Archelon Ranch is an impressive feat.