Libba Bray has seriously watched too many Teletubbies and Pingu episodes, or else how to explain this deliciously bizarre tour de surrealism? Going Bovine is everything you don’t want your goody two-shoes kids to read: it’s out-of-this universe, it’s bleeped up, uncompromising and above all a complicated and unadulterated mess of fantastic everythingness. I’m sure the comparisons with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy were aplenty when this first came out, but in all honesty, that’s doing Libba Bray short. Going Bovine’s main character Cameron is more akin to a Holden Caulfield in his quixotic search for the meaning of reality than he is to Arthur Dent of Hitchhiker fame.
Going Bovine has one of the most fantastic (in all meanings of the word!) premises ever: a main character (16-year-old reject Cameron) with mad cow disease has to save the universe – and in doing so himself – with his 2 sidekicks: the death-obsessed dwarf named Gonzo, and a talking garden gnome (Balder) who’s also the incarnation of an Norse god… Cameron and Gonzo set out from Texas to Florida (because where else would you find the meaning of life?) and meet a pleiad of geeks, freaks, cultists and fratboys.
Libba Bray pulls out all the stops and takes us on an existential trip where she challenges us to think about the links between Walt Disney, Don Quixote, Emily Dickinson and the Wizard of Reckoning. Some of the cat’s favorite scenes played out on the compound of CESSNAB, the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack-N-Bowl, whose tagline Don’t Hurt Your Happiness is both hilarious and sad at the same time: happiness as the desired state of mind, which should be defended, in the most fundamentalist of ways….yes, this sure works like a red rag to a bull for Cameron – this to keep in line with the cow metaphor of course.
I can totally hear the nay-sayers here, too, though… Libba Bray just wants to say too much in this novel, and she’s made a big old mess of everything. But, the dizzying adventures of Cameron, Gonzo and Balder, the sarcastic wit in the dialogues and the all-encompassing sense of compassion, hope and just sheer fun, just worked hypnotizing for the cat. The cat loves this book. It’s a whirlwind of ideas and emotions with at the heart one basic question: what does it mean to live? The cat cannot say no to this book.
In a book where everything is connected, the cat feels it would be a pity to give anything more away, because this is the type of book that should be approached completely unbiasedly and preferably with a huge amount of chocolates – unless you’re more herbally inclined, that is.