“Benjamin Parzybok has now woven two novels into the network known as my brain. Couch, the story of three slackers who literally cannot get rid of a charmed/cursed sofa that hurtles them on an incredible physical and metaphysical journey has regularly sparked my system since I read it 2008. Where as Couch sends its heroes from their Portland home into the wilds of an unknown world, Parzybok’s new release, Sherwood Nation, embeds his heroine—who comes to be known as Maid Marian—and her noble crew into foreign lands within the boundaries of their home city.
“After years of extreme drought the American West is dry. Cut off from the rest of the nation east of the Rockies, the left half of the map essentially a massive refugee camp, its residents fenced in and dependent on intra-national aid. Portland is a rare outpost, with a semi-functional municipality, but the burdens of relentless rationing and an increasingly apparent division between those who go thirsty and those who do not, make for prime tinder. It takes just one minor act of symbolic monkey wrenching to set this tale ablaze.
“Couch has remained in my consciousness because it goes ‘out there’ to find its core (think Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, Gabriel Garcia Marquez). What makes Sherwood so compelling and, frankly, often terrifying, is how close to home it lives. This Portland is totally familiar, invoking the attitudes and spirit of today’s residents and details from the recent political landscape. It feels like the place we know—until a nightly power blackout or parade of National Guard water distribution tankers jars us with a reminder that this is, thankfully, a work of very good fiction.
“Flirtatious Morse code played out by laser pointers; the sentimental musings of a drug lord reminiscing a love affair as he, relegated to a bicycle, pedals past the abandoned home of a former lover in his dying neighborhood; a desperate mayor who stays up long into the night to play first shooter video games to regain some sense of control.
“Sherwood Nation has left me with memorable images that will, no doubt, be triggered over time. There’s something heavy real in its imaginings—something that almost compels me to pray for rain.”