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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Book review: In Theory, It Works by Raymond St. Elmo

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Raymond St. Elmo is a programmer of artificial intelligences and virtual realities, who has no time for literary fabrications of fictitious characters and world-building. And yes, that was meant to be ironic.

A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of Magic Realism. Programming gave him a job. The job introduced him to artifical intelligence and virtual realities; as close to magic as reality is likely to get outside the covers of a book. And yes, that was meant to be cynical.

The author of several first-person comic-accounts of strange quests for mysterious manuscripts, mysterious girls in cloaks whose face appears SUDDENLY IN THE FLASH OF LIGHTNING. And yes, that was meant to be dramatic.

Publisher: Raymond St. Elmo (June 14 2022) Page Count: 323 Cover art: Virginia Mori

REVIEW

The Devil arrives in Theory. Instead of a small-town reality and small-minded people, she finds the world’s only upside-down skating rink. A soap bubble dragon monster. A romance and a touch of drama. 

Not to mention robot mice, cats, dogs, or an electric angel. 

In Theory, it Works is light, whimsical, and fun. Think of it as a low-stakes rural coming-of-age fantasy romance. Except that the coming-of-age arc will probably be more relatable to parents or readers who’ve already gone through their coming-of-age arcs in life :) It’s written with humor, love, and a touch of melancholy. 

The characters are charming and wholly relatable, even Marlon, the school bully. We get Marissa - a goth girl who loves black; Tyler - a shy and weird kid who speaks only to an imaginary hawk; Janine - a girl scout with a powerful roundhouse punch and a soft spot for boys who are broken; Reese and Jason - twins able to live in a moment. Marissa and Janine are interested in Tyler, who’s more interested in living in an imaginary world and stopping the Dragon. Jason is interested in Marissa, but she's not sure if she's interested in him. But fear not - it’s not a cheesy love triangle. Far from it. 

The adult protagonists, science teacher Ted Alva, and The Devil, Nichole K. Devlin, can’t resist one another, but the Devil may have ulterior motives. Ted loves teaching but budget constraints don't allow him to go full out. As a result, he encourages teens to create ideas of things but not things themselves. Nichole has corporate money but why would she invest it in a meaningless city like Theory? Well, here's the thing:

"The town of Theory has an improbable tendency to permit the improbable. Here, the Theory of the thing is sometimes the thing itself." 

Like most of St. Elmo’s books, In Theory, It Works is philosophical, humorous, and romantic. It’s full of quotable lines, intriguing thoughts, and metaphysical longings. It plays with narrative and contains stories within stories (including an exciting D&D session). The book touches on the darker side of the mentality of the little people (domestic violence, prejudice, parents on the brink of divorce), but with heart and gentle, humorous touches.

I'm a committed fan of St. Elmo's imaginative and unique writing. In Theory, It Works was a delight to read and think about. I found the story satisfying, intelligent, and the ending excellent and uplifting. Plenty here for fans of the whimsy.

Series (Texas Pentagraph) links: 

AS I WAS ON MY WAY TO STRAWBERRY FAIR - FBC REVIEW
STATIONS OF THE ANGELS - FBC REVIEW
LETTERS FROM THE WELL IN THE SEASON OF THE GHOSTS - FBC REVIEW
TO AWAKEN IN ELYSIUM - FBC REVIEW


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