Andrez Bergen’s novels are unmistakeable. From the moment you glimpse the title Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth it’s obvious that this is a story unlike any other on the shelf, and it does not disappoint. Firmly set in 1986—as the regular pop culture and musical references remind us—it’s a glimpse at the punishing hand life has dealt Mina, an awkward, self-conscious (read: average) teenage girl in the small town of Nede. She’s still reeling from the death of her mother when we’re first introduced to her, or more accurately, her lack of tears throughout the ordeal. Her father is distant and trying to replace his wife through a series of sexual conquests cum marital palate cleansers. Her brother is a temperamental, cruel beast to be avoided, as he sadistically torments her whenever the mood strikes him— and it often has, from childhood to present day. Her friends are hardly friends at all, a clique whose top girl shuns individuality and seems only content to have Mina as a placeholder to keep their membership total at five. They’re all eerily familiar to this gal who shared many a table with girls like them growing up, but that also highlights the irony of the whole situation: they’re all just as nervous and self-deprecating as Mina is, they’ve simply gotten better at hiding it through their hive-mind behaviour. It’s a credit to Bergen’s writing that he’s able to write these teenage girls believably: sometimes catty, often afraid, and always more than what appears on the surface— Mina in particular.
Because after everything that’s happened to Mina in her life, there are still more complications. Specifically, Animeid: a feathered female creature that only Mina can see/hear, which makes regular conversation with her friends amongst Animeid’s snippy comments or threats of violence towards anyone who wrongs her, difficult at best. This construct, mythical beast, or whatever she may be is interested in protecting Mina at all costs, and though it seems she doesn’t have the ability to physically interact with her surroundings, she’s an intimidating force in Mina’s life. On top of trying to survive high-school, her family, and her grief, Mina also alternates between ignoring Animeid and focusing on the implications of her very existence.
Even though Animeid’s presence could firmly set the novel in the fantasy or science-fiction genre, it crosses those boundaries with ease without ever settling on one niche. A brutally honest look at teenaged life in the 80s— with several Best-Of albums’ worth of musical attributions throughout— Bergen’s latest novel is a fascinating read that led down paths I didn’t expect to be explored, in ways that left me feeling distinctly unsettled. There’s a lot at work in this story: loss, love, and more than a smidgeon of lunacy, making Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth one of the most refreshing reads of 2014.
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth will be released on July 25th, 2014. Visit the book’s website for more information.
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