Author: Drew Melbourne
Author Twitter: @DrewMelbourne
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Genre: Comedic Space Opera Adventure
Word Count: 95,600

Drew Melbourne's Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days is an engaging ride through a future that is always absurd, often hilarious, and in its best moments extremely poignant. While initially I expected this to be a purely humorous affair in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the novel quickly evolves, delving into a deeper, darker narrative with high-stakes drama and gripping emotional moments.

Humor is always subjective, so I never expect all the jokes to land (even so, there were certainly more hits than misses for me in this book). Where I think the novel truly shines, however, is when the jokes are left aside for a (usually brief) moment to dig deep into the trauma driving this heavily character-focused story. There are some seriously brutal moments in this book, but it balances whimsy and solemnity quite well, rarely giving me whiplash in the shift of tone.

One way it does this is by exploring a zany universe 18,000 years in a future where Old Navy and YouTube and Apple Watches still exist (the Apple Watch has been, shall we say, considerably upgraded). It's an odd world that stretched my belief at times and never really got an in-universe explanation—but it fits the tone of the book, so fair enough. We explore many of these oddities in the form of narrative interludes that break from—but weave back into—the main plot. At first, I found these unwelcome interruptions, but by the end I was enjoying these vignettes as something like their own little flash fiction stories.

Despite the insanity of the world Melbourne created, the characters feel quite authentic. They're delightfully realized, flaws and all, and the main characters have a lot of depth. I found myself sympathizing with all of them, even if their actions occasionally frustrated me or left me confused (especially early on).

The book concludes with a satisfying, albeit slightly unclear resolution. The emotional beats landed for me, but some of the concrete details about what was happening could have been communicated more clearly. I wish we lingered just a bit longer in the climactic scene to help clarify events before jumping into the denouement, but that didn't significantly impact my enjoyment of the novel.

This book is certainly one-of-a-kind—a surprising, intricate blend of humor, heart, and darkness. Its quirks may not appeal to everyone, but those who find themselves drawn in will discover an engaging story lurking beneath the absurdity and zaniness.

My Score: 8 / 10

/* Note: I'll be keeping my review score hidden until the rest of Team can announce their scores as well. This review reflects only my personal opinion, not the opinion of the entire team. */

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