Mad Black Wheel
by Josh Malerman
Hardcover, 304 pages
Fear State: Perfection (3.5/5)
Mad Black Wheel was strange for even me. I loved Malerman’s prose. I love the way he unravels’ a story. This story begins with a sound. A sound that can cause irreparable harm to anyone that hears it. First, he has us afraid to look outside and now we should be afraid to hear? What are you trying to do to us Josh? What’s next? Will be touched by some threat causing our skin to sluff off slowly and painfully.
Wait, Josh. If you ever read this don’t run with that!
I just want to make sure you’re not going for a theme to attack our senses. I’m completely sold though. If I haven’t said this before I’ll proudly say it again. I believe in the Malerman brand. It’s necessary. This novel introduces us to a character named Philip Tonka a member of a band the Danes. Upon meeting him every bone in his body has been broken. He’s recovering and has no recollection of how he ended up in his condition. As if his situation couldn’t get any worse all of his band mates are missing. The last thing he remembers is the government recruited the band who themselves are former military to locate this sound.
This novel unravels similarly to Birdbox with chapters alternating between the past and the present. The exact details of the mission are unclear as the events are being pieced together by Philip six months after the events took place. After waking up from a coma his thoughts are disjointed taking us spiraling down the rabbit hole with him to figure out the truth. I didn’t altogether love Philip. I wanted to given his predicament. But, he was missing something. Malerman is excellent in creating what I like to refer to as onion characters. People are complicated with layers and texture. Philp was missing a few layers. Given that I didn’t altogether fall in love with Philip it was hard for me to understand why his nurse Ellen did so easily. Was this relationship motivated to pull the plot along? I don’t know if it’s fair to assume that. But, after the first read it’s what I’m left with.
The true crux of the story was the sound. It’s the driving force and where Malerman lives. Given that he was a musician prior to diving into the writing game it didn’t surprise me at all that this part of the story would leap off the page. I love rock which is why I could dig it. Maybe you will too.