For many people, waking up the morning after a serious bender not knowing where they are or how they’ve got there has happened on occasion. Be it a naïve college student after one too many during RAG week, an individual trying desperately to drown their sorrows, a down and out drinking copiously because there’s nothing else to do. But for Chloe, a recovering alcoholic who has teetered off the wagon after discovering her fiancé cheating on her, this is no ordinary blackout. And when she wakes, bleary eyed and head pounding, the additional aches and nausea she feels tell her its no ordinary hangover.
She has landed in The Wasteland, a place not of this world, and is discovered unconscious in the desert by brother and sister team Jack and Kitty, siblings from the Wild West, who found themselves in the same predicament 26 years earlier by their reckoning, yet by Chloe’s 2013 perspective two centuries have gone by. Joining their gang of misfits known as The Arrivals is Edgar, a suave bootlegger from the Prohibition era, Frances, a hippie from the Seventies and trigger-happy 1950s housewife Melanie. No one knows how they got there, no one knows why they’re there, yet all of them agree that they must stick together to face the strange, multiple mooned world they’ve found themselves in.
The blurb at the back of The Arrivals is intriguing and the illustration at the front is interesting, but the old adage is never to judge a book by its cover, and that advice proves fitting in this case. Written by Mellissa Marr, a bestselling author of teen fiction of the witchy, vampirey kind so beloved these days, it seems that the crossover into adult territory has not been altogether successful. There is a slightly awkward, ingenuous approach to the more “mature” incidents between the couples that inevitably get together, and quite a simple story is stretched out with repetition and over-attention to detail. It even has a sort of false start; beginning with a shootout between crooked monks and the demons that posses them the reader is thrown right into the action, and is forced to imagine the setting with very little to go on. Which is fine; it’s somewhat refreshing not to be spoon-fed the entire scene, it’s nice to use one’s imagination once in a while, but when Chloe appears halfway through the story suddenly the place is being described from the point of view of a newcomer, which becomes quite confusing and frustrating when at odds with your own visualisations.
There are some moments of excitement and innovation, including the creatures and humanoids native to The Wasteland and their unique characteristics, and the mystery surrounding the overlord Ajani, who is hell bent on capturing Kitty and who has a special interest in any new Arrival. The quest to discover why the Arrivals have ended up there comes second to their fight for survival, which is a relatively realistic slant to take, but the rushed ending ties things up far too neatly and there isn’t enough time to truly root for or care about any of the characters.
– Aoife B. Burke
First published in The Tuam Herald on 09.10.13