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Wormwood, Nevada by David Oppegaard

01/02/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Wormwood, Nevada in the USA - or Buy Wormwood, Nevada in the UK

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pub: St. Martin's Press. 246 page small hardback. Price: $24.99 (US), $31.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-312-38111-0.

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After finishing 'Wormwood, Nevada', I'm a bit puzzled as to what genre should it belong to because of the scattershot. It's almost like author David Oppegaard wanted to write a story about a small American town and the effects of a meteorite landing nearby and then tacks on a little bit of SF element to either ensure a sale to the publisher or to hit our readership. Ultimately, it ends up being a bit or a mess. Story elements are picked up, shown a bit or even ignored and the emotional content is lost purely because so much is described as to what is happening than how it affects people.

From out of the mid-west, Tyler and Anna Mayfield come to Wormwood, Nevada (hence the title) to stay with his Aunt Bernie and her dog, Roscoe, as he becomes a teacher at the local school of a class of a dozen teens. Shortly after that, a meteorite crashes near the local diner and the population think the end of the world is neigh. Only in America, I guess. The diner owner, Diaz, takes up sentry duty in his chair near the crater after the brief publicity dies down and an odd normality returns to the town. Sort of.

The tropes hit are mostly associated with how you might see an American town in the cinema in a 'B' grade movie except it's even more diluted with no real strong personalities to sustain it. Skull, one of the teens from Mayfield's class, whom you would expect from name and appearance to be at least a rebel seems to come from the same vocal mode as the rest of them. As you might surmise, it becomes difficult to connect to the characters. It's almost as though Oppegaard is wanting to write a strong American mid-town novel but even his snapshot is blurry. The SF element is hinted at and if I say what it is would probably constitute as a spoiler but it's really incidental. None of which is helped by not getting sufficiently into their mindsets.

Oppegaard also forgets that a crashed meteorite, especially a large one as described in the book, wouldn't be cold enough to dig down to have a look at it let alone even have a significant crater. Yes, Nevada has had its share of meteorite crashes but they are tiny in comparison to the crash described here. When something so basic hasn't been researched then there is a problem from the start. Any meteorite crashing to Earth would make a crater in any soil type with sufficient heat to melt the ground as well. The townfolk have no problem digging down to it shortly after it crashes. To many of us know the difference to fake it.

Although the book is readable, I have a feeling those of you who try this book and just going to use it as an example of what not to do in a novel.

GF Willmetts

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