Summerhill is the kind of book that happens when hundreds of deus ex machina stack and combine and Voltron themselves until they become this bizarre poetry centered around fucking with a dog’s head.
Like a lot of authors, filmmakers, and musicians who set about to make something as crazy and epic as this, Kevin Frane has written a book that reaches peaks of greatness for him, though sometimes at the expense of his usually tight storytelling.
There are numerous great scenes within Summerhill. The opening chapter is one of my favorite things Frane has written. The book abounds with interesting stuff. A cruise ship sailing between realities. Alien creatures of every shape and size. New and bizarre worlds. Super powers. And doors, lots of doors, both literally and figuratively.
If you’re a fan of his previous work, Summerhill is like concentrated Frane. The protagonists jump from locale to locale so frequently that readers are treated to a smorgasbord of whimsical prose and experimental writing. The dialogue is sharp, the characters exude personality, and it’s very clear that this is a universe full of people Frane cares about.
Really, Summerhill is worth reading just for the sampler platter of styles and homage. At times it’s very Dr. Who, with a dash of Lost. There are scenes that feel like Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars. The influences are obvious, but not heavy handed.
The scenes don’t quite tie together very well, and for the first half of the book, that’s kind of the point. But as the story reaches its conclusion, the events haven’t coalesced into much. At its root the plot is very simple, and all the crazy stuff happening around it feels inconsequential at times. It’s a book that leaves dozens of questions unanswered, so know that going in. It’s not so much a story about finding oneself as it is a story about finding everything else.
While not a book I necessarily recommend to the general public, I will say that I’ve never read anything quite like Summerhill, and I’m glad to have experienced it. There are plenty of you out there that will adore so much about this story and the universe(s), and really any fan of Frane’s work will find more than enough parts to love.