Earworm by Aaron Thomas Milstead

Ripley McCain is going through a rough patch. By day, he is a pest control technician; by night, he is relegated to sleeping in the pool house by his wife—with whom his marriage to is slowly deteriorating. His daughter, Shadow, is beginning to turn away from him due to her mother’s incessant complaining, and his mother-in-law is a nag too. Then to top it all off, he’s recently been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. Ripley decides not to tell his family about his medical condition because as much as he would like to have them fall back in love with him, he doesn’t want it to be out of pity for his impending death; he wants it to be real.

Yeah, guess it’s not so much a rough patch for Ripley as it is the absolute end of the road for him.

Then something changes…

While spraying pesticide in a client’s house, Ripley finds the owner dead on the floor. Before he can decide what to do, he’s cracked over the head and passes out. When he wakes up, the body is gone and Ripley is unsure if he hallucinated everything—auditory and visual hallucinations are symptoms of his disease after all—or if he stumbled into a murder scene that was then cleaned up.

He goes back home, not telling anyone what he experienced. However, he didn’t go home alone. There’s a voice in Ripley’s head now, that isn’t his. It starts with songs that he hasn’t heard in years—

You got a friend in me

Fuck Randy Newman

­—then weird dreams come, and finally, the voice introduces itself as Bogart. Bogart informs Ripley that he’s a parasite from an old species that has been on this planet for millions of years, surviving by transferring into various hosts. Good news is Bogart can keep Ripley’s brain disease at bay; bad news, Ripley has been dragged into a battle that has raged for millennia between the elder parasites of the race and the newbies like Bogart.

If I say much more, I feel I’ll ruin it because through most of the novel, the reader isn’t sure if the events unfolding are real or simply imagined in Ripley’s deteriorating mind. The only hint I’ll give is that the end does answer your questions and is very satisfying….at least to me.

I absolutely loved this book! It’s a little bit horror, little bizarro, little dark comedy, and a whole lotta heart. This is not like the other books I’ve reviewed in the sense that it’s not hardcore gore and depraved and yet, I feel that extreme fans will still dig it.

I get hints of Chuck Palahniuk in the storytelling here and there. Two scenes in particular that really jump out are about conspiracy theories. First is regarding TV shows, such as: all the castaways on Gilligan’s Island are really in hell, Will Smith is actually dead in the Fresh Prince of Bel-aire, and Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell, well, his whole life is just a dream! And Milstead has evidence to back all these theories up, lol. The other is a strange rant about garlic and how it can destroy the harmony in your body.

I think the final line from the back cover copy sums it up nicely: “Both horrific and heartwarming, Earworm is a bizarre tale of consciousness, ancient aliens, conspiracies, and a whole lot more!”

Do yourself a favor and put Earworm by Aaron Thomas Milstead at the top of your TBR pile. Then let me know your safeword ;)


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