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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Love and Other Near-Death Experiences

***** Love and Other Near-Death Experiences by Mil Millington. General fiction.

First, a Public Service Announcement
: Do not click on the author's name. Normally, on this blog, doing so will take you to the author's website. It does that here, as well, but Mil Millington's website is
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. It will make you laugh aloud (so your boss will realize you're surfing the internet at work), and put you at risk of snorting coffee through your nose and/or spitting it all over your monitor and keyboard. If you click anyway, it's not my fault. You've been warned.

ETA: by the way, it appears that TMGAIHAA is currently unavailable, so you're safe for the time being. If you're determined to risk it, though, you can get most of the same content at Mil's Apology Homepage. It just takes a little more clicking.

Like Millington's previous two books, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About (#4), and A Certain Chemistry, Love and Other Near-Death Experiences had me laughing aloud every other page, frequently laughing so hard I'd have tears running down my face and I'd feel compelled to quote funny bits aloud to whoever was handy at the time.

But that's where the similarity ends. If possible, I think this is even better than the first two, and I absolutely loved the first two.

Late-night disk jockey Rob Garland is losing it. Ever since... okay, it's not a spoiler because it's all right there on the cover, but since I make it a policy not to read the back covers of books because I want to get the full effect, it was a little bit of suspense you won't get if I tell. Still, if you're reading this about a book you haven't read yet, you'd likely read the back of the book anyway, right? Okay, then. I feel better now. On we go. Ever since returning some towels made him late for a lunch interview, thereby saving his life when a tanker truck crashes into the restaurant, killing everyone inside, he's been crippled by indecision: which decision was it that saved his life? Was it returning the towels? Or was it buying the towels in the first place? Or maybe it was whatever made him turn and see the towels in the shop window. Or something even more mundane. And what about the future? What if choosing black over blue ink sets in motion the events that will end up killing him? What if it's the blue ink that does it? How can he choose?

It finally gets to be too much for him one night, and instead of playing jazz, he blurts out the whole story on-air. Rather than losing his job, though, he becomes instantly popular, and his show turns into a freak-show talk show with Rob as the main attraction.

But this isn't a case of talking making things better, and his fiancee Jo finally tells him the wedding is off unless he gets his act together, and Rob goes off on a quest, accompanied by three people who also didn't die when they should have: a young American soldier who's appointed himself Rob's bodyguard, an acerbic and suicidal 40-year-old English teacher, and a gorgeous young Welsh Wiccan woman with warnings about a group trying to wight...er, right... the wrongs of unwarranted survival.

I've always loved the butterfly-effect concept anyway--the idea that some minuscule detail could have a huge effect, and the idea that this otherwise normal person is literally paralyzed by indecision is compelling. We get pretty thoroughly inside Rob's head, and it's fascinating how normal a place that is.

There's the mystery and suspense--is someone really after them, or is that just psychological, too? And the developing and changing relationships between the characters--love and friendship and romance. And the slightly askew way of viewing it all that marks Millington's writing and would make me snort tea out my nose if I didn't know better than to drink while reading his books.

Just a complete joy to read.


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