Speculative fiction books have an enormous share of the book market. It’s not quite the amount that mysteries have, but it’s a sizable enough chunk that a spin-off genre has grown: the fan novel. Specifically, the novel where most of the speculative elements comes from a character’s love of pop culture. David Arnold’s The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, a weird novel about fandom, covers both the events of an alternate universe and the irrational obsession and where fans turn when everything else in life seems uncertain.
Noah Oakman, who is not referred to as Noah Hypnotik all that often, has conveniently two friends in the world – the flamboyant Alan and perfect Val, fraternal twins – and a quirky family. Twins show up a lot in this book: his best friends are twins; he has twin uncles (though one has died); Sara, a pretty girl (a different one) in his neighborhood and her twin bro, Circuit approach him at a party. After Noah stumbles back to their house with Circuit, he shambles out into an alternate universe. Only small details have changed. Alan obsesses over Marvel Comics instead of DC. Val is now a music prodigy instead of a photographer. Noah’s mother now has a prominent scar on her face. However, Noah cares most that Alan and Val have decided to attend college at UCLA in this universe instead of their hometown, Chicago.
Here’s what has not changed: Noah remains obsessed with David Bowie. Noah’s sister always wants to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The same old man walks the same street. An obscure author Noah likes has the same canon. Basically, whatever mattered to Noah besides the education of his only friends remains the same. Anyway, Noah spends the whole book trying to figure out why he swtiched universes.
Huge spoiler. Noah never left his home universe. The whole book stops on a dime when it turns out that a lot of the action has occurred in an elaborate hallucination. That Circuit guy hooked him up to an advanced piece of VR. This reader would much rather have seen an alternate universe. Noah does go on a character journey, but it still feels like a let down.
True to reading level, all of the people in Noah’s hometown do have incredibly witty things to say, whenever they talk, though. Reading some of the dialogue in this book, will surely bring about some laughs. Noah does stop obsessing quite as much, although the way he characterizes other people by their passions hits the teenager in any reader. Lest anyone forget, this is a YA book and YA is short for “teenager.” Still, Noah Hypnotik’s charm softens the jolting plot twist mentioned above. Also, this book has extras, which is always awesome.
The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik uses David Bowie fandom and hypnosis to focus on issues teenagers have which is why they get away with stuff like dream endings. Basically, it kisses the annoying plot twist full on the lips since it wants to show that people will only focus on things important to them. For example, Noah only has the courage to ask out the girl he likes in real life at the end because he’s had a crush on her for awhile. Focusing on a fandom can provide an escape, as does this book, for anyone with a weekend to kill. It should, however, especially strike a chord with any nerds who ever gone overboard with an obsession.
Be sure to check out David Arnold’s website for upcoming books!
Favorite Quote: “The fact that you just used news flash in a sentence negates your opinion on what’s in and what’s out.”
Page Count: 410
Star Rating: Three out of five stars.