First novel with a bevy of psychopaths and a millennial cult called The Overcomers.
As the initial title in Akashic’s new Little House on the Bowery series, edited by Dennis Cooper, this is far from groundbreaking, and in fact barely manages to even keep interest. Jeppsen starts with a teenage girl, Tanya, who’s on the fast track to teenage wasteland. Pregnant, perpetually stoned, and suffering all the usual torments inflicted on children by clichéd redneck parents in this kind of tale, Tanya runs away. On the road and drifting, she soon enough finds herself listening to the very convincing Martin Jones talk about why he and his followers are getting ready for “The Next Evolutionary Level of Existence.” This preparation, of course, involves shaving one’s head, wearing a lot of white, forgoing sex, waiting for the flying saucers, and listening with rapt, blissful attention to everything Martin has to say. Mixed in with Tanya’s story is that of Herbert, who appears to be her teenaged son, born while she was at the cult and later cut loose upon the world as a grab-bag of self-destructive, deluded impulses. This takes a while to become clear, of course, because not only are Herbert’s tale and Tanya’s interwoven, but tossed in among them are the scrambled fever-dreams of other crazed individuals, some associated with the cult (or so it seems). This whole loosely organized flotilla of sketches sails, as it were, into oblivion. A better writer might have pulled off such a feat, but Jeppesen’s characters offer difficulty through being insufficiently distinguished one from another, while his prose tends toward the simply careless, occasionally turning up the especially embarrassing turn of phrase (“Biscuits of emotion”). Such weaknesses conspire to keep what might have been an interesting examination of the psychology of millennial cults a tedious piece of work.
Overwrought and underthought: an American gothic that could have used a few more drafts.