Book Review – Zerostrata by Andersen Prunty

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Genre: Bizarro / Fantasy
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2008
Publisher: Eraserhead Press

“That wasn’t what I wanted. That wasn’t what I wanted at all. I didn’t want to be a kid again. I just wanted to be in Zerostrata. I just wanted to look out over things, from that height, with virtually nothing holding me back from the world around me.”

Zerostrata is a story of innocent wonder, things falling apart and being mended. This is the kind of book that cuddles up to your heart and brain and presses out all the decay and sadness, if just for a precious while. It’s the strangest of soul-searching adventures.

The magnificent “Zerostrata” is only a treehouse, precariously perched in the tallest tree in town, in the yard of Hansel Nothing’s childhood home. It’s a moldy old deathtrap, but it’s Hansel’s favourite moldy old deathtrap, and when he returns to his mother’s strange, sad house from the mystery of the abyss and sees that things are in the same shambles they always were, Hansel turns to Zerostrata for comfort. One night in Zerostrata, he looks through the window onto the flesh of the world below and sees a girl running naked on the street – her name is Gretel.

I suppose you’d think this makes it a retelling, wouldn’t you? But I don’t exactly know what to call this book. Zerostrata can’t be bothered trying to squeeze into labels, it just is what it is and it’s beautiful. It’s a little living melancholy wearing a fairytale mask, but there’s a bittersweet realism about the characters even when they’re climbing to the moon and warping reality.

Andersen Prunty in my opinion is one of the most talented writers of surreal, oddball fiction. Zerostrata is an indefinable paradox. It’s impossible but at the same time makes perfect sense, and something that creates that particular “emotion”, or whatever you want to call it, takes skill.

Zerostrata‘s skin is colourful but underneath it lies pieces of ourselves that we will all recognize but then wonder what has changed about them. You’ll recognize the Nothing family. Their situation is all familiar because you can’t live for any time without losing a lot in the transition from childhood. The tiny sorrows you didn’t understand and couldn’t acknowledge seem to meld into a great depression when you look at them as an adult, even though now you might just have the power to reverse them.
Zerostrata is a very different, amazingly weird sort of drama. I can’t really say I’ve ever read much that was like it.

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