Jackrabbit Messiah by Geoph Essex

Jackrabbit MessiahJackrabbit Messiah by Geoph Essex
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

>*Note: I received a copy of this text in exchange for an honest review.

I’m sitting here attempting to write this review and pondering where to start but the only thought that comes repeatedly to mind is, I loved this book! However, I do need to offer something more substantial so we’ll begin with the cover. I’m of the divided mind (and maybe this is appropriate, considering Jackrabbit’s duality) that it alludes to the content in the broadest of strokes, painting a child’s picture of what is, in truth, an amazing story full of adult realities (and un-realities); but also that it might just be perfectly intentional considering Jackrabbit’s persistent child-like enthusiasm and genuine innocence in his interactions with the mortals he’s trying (and sometimes forgetting he’s trying) to save. I can’t tell if it’s genius or a product of a lazy cover artist.

Moving on to the aspects I thoroughly enjoyed, reading Essex’s “quicksilver prose and uncompromising wit” invariably brought to mind another literary hero, Neil Gaiman and his spell-binding novel American Gods. Modern Day mortals like psychiatrist Amity Sheridan and her female police lieutenant friend Springer mix it up with divine beings – gods- that parade around looking just like the mortals they’re so far superior to, and a demonic entity known as the Prince of Chicago. They’re taken on a mind-bending journey into the dark byways and alleys of humanity, ensconced by necessity and aided by a supporting cast of fellow humans, a legend, and a man-once-canine-now-history-teacher. Amity and Springer are entirely believable as characters yanked out of the everyday and confronted with what it means to be human.

Like Gaiman’s main character Shadow Moon in American Gods, Jackrabbit at first presents as an anti-hero, a charmingly witless, guileless crackpot who’s just jumped off an eight story building just to confirm he couldn’t fly and is absurdly attached to the dirty, stained rabbit costume he wears. Seemingly suffering from auditory hallucinations and potential dissociation, Jackrabbit stuns everyone around him by performing an astonishing disappearing act from police custody, thereby pulling Amity and Lieutenant Springer into his mysterious world. He has a mission – get to Chicago! – and his inability to stay in one place for very long begins to prove troublesome for him. Jackrabbit goes through an existential crisis, his sense of identity fading bit by bit as he travels from New York to Illinois, meeting a colorful crew of ancillary characters along the way. Penn Duffy is an unexpected but integral addition. I loved her gruff exterior and watching her development through the breakneck adventure.

The Prince(ess) of Chicago, the book’s demonic adversary, has to be one of the creepiest and horrifying bad guys/girls I’ve ever encountered. An introvert’s worst nightmare, The Prince of Chicago has the ability to subsume a person’s mind and will at a simple touch, and Essex’s descriptions of the concerted actions of dozens to thousands of people all under the perfect control of one absolutely terrifying entity engender potential nightmares for the rest of my life.

What I loved most about this book was the examination of connection and coincidence. The legend, Maggie Calloway, explains coincidence as two events happening at the same time, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, but rarely with some divine meaning. Yet each of the characters in this book is intricately and intentionally connected, their roles anticipated to absolute perfection. There is nothing coincidental about their involvement at all. The joy of the reading is watching as each of these characters realizes this fact and become better people for the realization. As a result the actual victory against the nemesis, for me, played second note to each of the individual’s harmonization of Purpose.

Essex delivers a book worthy of rubbing spines on the bookshelf next to any of Gaiman’s books. I’ll be rereading Jackrabbit Messiah again and again; anxious to discover new nuances I might have missed the first go-around. I couldn’t help but devour this book with ravenous appreciation.

I give Jackrabbit Messiah a rousing 5 star rating!

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