Confession time: I just finished Forbes West’s addition to the AW universe, Medium Talent, and oh, does my head hurt. West has a Hemmingway thing going on, and it’s grizzly, ugly, and stressful to read. Forget the facts, the iceberg theory of writing, the Kilimanjaro stuff, or the Spanish civil war. Hell, forget about the old guy alone in the cabin with the shotgun on his lap. Forget all that, because if you don’t, you head will hurt, too.
Medium Talent is the tale of Key West survivors of a world-spanning hurricane three years earlier; the Supply Org (the AW version of FEMA) is the last bit of government around, which gives aid and comfort to the fortress fleet of the rich and powerful, while the denizens of the Florida Keys and most other places scratch what they can out of crappy local economies. Danger is ever present: if it’s not the Supply Org shaking you down, it’s the playboys on their armored yachts, or the sea monsters, or the zombies, or local thugs, or even the infected who are warehoused in the Depository.
Into this sub-tropical hell hole we meet Wendy Wicker, captain of the Medium Talent, who presents herself as a smuggler, artist, wife, adopted mother, and incredibly violent borderline sociopath. Somehow she is all these things, and yet, truly none of them. Trying to give you a linear picture of this distinctly non-linear world and story would be a hopeless gesture, but I can tell you the Wendy is far more complicated than she seems, she does meet Hemmingway back in 1934 Key West, and deep down she really does want to save the world. Or at least her little corner of it.
Anyway, the Hemmingway thing has its advantages; it creates a fascinating thread through a rollicking world that alternately confuses and makes perfect sense. It gets weird, but that’s sort of the name of the game, isn’t it?