Book of the Day Review

Normal by Warren Ellis / Reviewed by Clay Snellgrove


By Warren Ellis

FSG Originals
ISBN 978-0374534974
Published November 29, 2016

Buy it here!


Killer Nashville review by Clay Snellgrove

In the very near future, public and private interests will hire individuals to spend their days considering, foretelling, and predicting events, trends, challenges, and unavoidable disasters soon to impact the human race and the world. In his new novel Normal, author Warren Ellis introduces us to a collection of these professional prognosticators at a secluded rehab facility called Normal Head where they grapple with the insanity that their career has prompted. When one of the patients at the facility vanishes from his room, leaving behind only a swarm of strange insects in his place, Normal Head’s newest arrival, Adam Dearden feels called to solve the mystery of the disappearance.

Two different types of people have been forcibly detained at Normal Head. Foresight strategists are civil employees that gaze into the abyss and search for strategies that might help the human race avoid the coming doom. Strategic forecasters are the hired guns of corporations that brainstorm ways clients can prepare and survive the doom that is imminent. Dearden’s blurry past seems to include interaction with both sides of the profession which puts him in a unique position to seek information and guidance from longtime residents of the segregated rehab facility.

A successful author of comic books, Ellis aptly creates a compelling, graphic, and surreal setting in this bold, suspenseful tale. Fans of the author will love the intricate sociocultural commentary that is woven seamlessly throughout the narrative. As Dearden avoids the staff and ongoing surveillance in his efforts to discover the truth behind his fellow patient’s disappearance, he interacts with a cast of futurists that share the observations and visions that broke them, caused them to develop the “abyss gaze,” a symptom that signals the person needs to be committed.

As readers learn the tragic fate of our world through these conversations, they will find that the writer’s imagined culture not only feels possible but close at hand. Ellis takes risks in crafting this bizarre story but ultimately succeeds with the help of a brilliant, conspiratorial ending. Every sentence feels important, requiring a focused eye in order to absorb the smart, tightly packed prose.

Clay Snellgrove is the author of The Ball Player. He’s a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University. A former professional baseball player, Clay holds an MFA in creative writing from Converse College.