Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can’t move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus—a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself.
Rio Youers is the British Fantasy and Sunburst Award–nominated author of Westlake Soul and Lola on Fire. His 2017 thriller, The Forgotten Girl, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. He is the writer of Refrigerator Full of Heads, a new six-issue series from DC Comics, and Sleeping Beauties, based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King and Owen King. Rio’s new novel, No Second Chances, will be published by William Morrow in February 2022.
This isn't really a review. I feel like books on this level of perfection get to just bypass all the trappings of a normal review where the reader fusses about the star rating or finding the right way to say what needs to be said. Five stars is what I clicked because that's the highest rating Goodreads will let me give it. But five stars doesn't even remotely translate how I feel about this book. The way I feel is how I feel after every special book I've ever read--this story resonated with me in a unique personal way. The words were like magical threads that lifted off the page and pierced through skin, joints and marrow where they are now woven into the fabric of my very own soul. I'm not even going to trouble myself with revisiting the plot or highlighting what it was that I loved so much, I loved it all. Every word. It is the most achingly beautiful story I have ever read and it will probably always BE that book for me. I have no idea how Rio Youers imagined Westlake. I have no idea how he knew how this story should go. He surprised me. He painstakingly built the most realistic people--Westlake, yes. But his family, Hub Yvette, even Wayne. I could see these people so vividly and I felt all of their emotions so forcefully--the way Rio constructed the relationships and the moments between characters was masterful. Brilliant even. There will never be a book quite like this one for me. It's like top tier in perfection and greatness. I don't know if I could ever read it again, simply because it's so emotionally raw and poignant, there were times I just had to lay it in my lap and squeeze my dog. I had to let the burning in my eyes fade away and the hot tears to stop clouding my view before I resumed. I just don't know how to willingly revisit that upon myself--knowingly--the second time around, you know? But I'll tell you something, I will NEVER stop recommending this book. I'm already requesting for my husband to read it and since he was there to hug me and marvel at how moved I was when I finished, I don't think he'll resist--we both love a good cry. It's my recommendation that readers (fans) of... Feeling Your Feelings, Supernatural Stories, Powerful Storytelling, The Most Compelling Love and Fear You Will Ever Read, Real Superheroes, The Beauty and Frailty of Life, Parental Love, The Love Between a Man and His Dog, Families, Heartache, Romance, Perseverance, Miracles, Just like ALL THE FUCKING THINGS... ...will love this book as much as I do. Thank you, Rio
I'm going to do something that I don't think I've ever done. I'm going to write this review without reading any other reviews beforehand. I know what I have to say. And I need to get it out. After I write this I'll see what everyone else has to say, but for this one I want my opinions to be wholly my own.
My friend Brian and I had a great conversation about horror over tea and coffee the other day, and he brought up this book. We were talking about books we loved, and he said I needed to read this. I love when people do that. We they say "you NEED to experience this book" because they are always right. My friend Sadie does that. She'll just tell me "you need this" and that's all I have to know. I had no idea how much I needed this book until Brian put it in my hand.
This is one of those books that only comes around once in a long while and then stays with you for the rest of your life. It changes you. It changes how you think. It changes how you see the world. It changes how you see your life and the people around you. This book can literally change your life, if you let it. If you wake up and stop saying no and start taking chances it can change your life. If you do small things that you are afraid of each day, and live life to its absolute fullest. This book makes you want to be a better person and treat other people better too. It puts things into perspective. Your life, the lives of others, what's important during this life we are gifted, and what you shouldn't waste time over. It's amazing, and the writing is brilliant, and it's powerful. It's beautiful, and funny, and soul crushing, and so real. It has the power to simultaneously lift you up while you are sobbing onto the pages. (Don't worry, Brian. I took special care of your book, I promise.) It's a book I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life.
I'm not going to give a single sentence of this book away. I had no idea what it was when I went into it, and I want you, reader, to have that experience too. I know some people read reviews to find books to read. This is it. It defies genre. It's just an amazing book. And last night as I was sitting up in bed at 2am, my husband asleep beside me, crumpled tissues littering our bed, I wanted to start sharing it with people right then. I wanted to tell everyone I know to read it. I know I'm late to the party. This book was written a few years ago, but I know a number of my friends haven't read it. To them, and to you I say "you need this".
After a surfing accident leaves him in a Persistent Vegetative State, Westlake Soul finds he has developed "superpowers," among which are the ability to communicate with his dog and other animals (but not humans, for various reasons having to do with "normal" people's psychology), and the ability to astral-project his soul. He is fully aware of the sights and sounds around him, yet is unable to communicate this fact to his family, who must make some life and death decisions about him.
This was my first exposure to Rio Youers other than hearing him sitting in on the 3 Guys With Beards podcast, and it has made me an instant fan of his, eager to read more. This book shows him to be an incredible writer, a skilled craftsman, forging raw words into a masterpiece of art. Every word is perfectly placed, every scene is flawlessly set. Within these pages, you will experience the thrill of a surfer catching a barrel, the wonder of swimming with whales, the heartbreak of love unfulfilled, and the horror of joy turning to despair.
The story propels the reader along a wide spectrum of feelings and emotion, from empathy and sympathy, to humor and pain, love and loss, and, most of all, hope.
For, as Anne Frank said, “. . . where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”
This is one book I look forward to re-reading. Highly recommended to any readers of speculative fiction.
Rio Youers’ WESTLAKE SOUL is one of the very few books I’ve ever finished and said to myself “I’m going to read this again some day.” There are just too many books I want to get to, and not enough hours in my life to go re-reading everything I liked. But I didn’t like Westlake Soul, I loved it.
WESTLAKE SOUL is the story of Westlake, a twenty-three year old surfer, who’s put into a persistent vegetative state by a surfing accident. The catch is that the novel is narrated by Westlake himself, he’s been trapped in his boy, but his mind is working better than it ever has. Westlake’s accident has “flipped the iceberg” of his mind, allowing him powers of perception far beyond human limits (for example, he can talk to the family dog and can “release” a projection of himself to anywhere in the universe), but still his body languishes on life-support and his family is beginning to give up hope.
The central conceit is a good one, but the novel wouldn’t be half of what it is if not for Westlake himself. Youers has crafted a character that can relate this immensely sad premise without letting the novel feel too dour. Westlake is optimistic, funny, affably self-assured, while still feeling flawed enough to be a real person.
That’s not to suggest that Westlake is some kind of romp, it’s not. In fact, if the book goes to some very dark places and if it doesn’t bring you to the verge of tears at least once, I’m going to wager that you’re dead inside.
I sat on this review for a few days, I’d finished the last 100 pages or so in one long sitting and immediately took to twitter and Goodreads to gush. So many superlatives were bubbling up in my mind (“Best book eva 4 real!”), so I told myself to take a chill pill and compose my review in a few days. Well the time has elapsed, and I still love this book. I think all that time to think on it has actually enhanced my appreciation for it.
What a great book. Pick it up ASAP, you'll thank me.
My first read of the year and it seriously destroyed me. I’ve read some sad books over the years but this is the saddest one I’ve EVER read.
I went into this one blind. All I knew about it was everyone I know who has read it raved about how great it was and that it was a very emotional read. Still I wasn’t prepared for it to wreck me like it did. I don’t cry easily but I had to put the book down to compose myself and dry my tears a few times before I continued reading.
I don’t want to give too much away about this beautiful story. I think it’s a book that will have a unique meaning for each reader. I will say it’s about life, death, family and it will make you want to hug your loved ones.
The prose is gorgeous, the characters are well developed and the story flows seamlessly. It also has some very funny moments too. The only complaint I have was the ending left me wanting more.
So to sum it up, read this book but keep the tissues nearby.
This book is so unique but incredibly sad. I was brought to tears on several occasions throughout the book. It is haunting and devastating. It really makes you look at life a whole lot differently. Appreciate all you have as you may not have it forever.
After a fluke surfing accident and getting smashed in the head with his board, Westlake Soul was without oxygen for 8 minutes and 44 seconds. Now instead of surfing, he spends his time talking to his dog Hub, drinking sweet Jevity 1.2 Cal thru a tube and swimming with the whales. He just may be the smartest person in world history. But he still ain’t no Pip.
Now he is in a life and death battle with his archenemy Dr. Quietus, whose laughter is the sound of breaking bones and who is biding his time until he can get the drop on Westlake. It’s only a matter of time.
I had no clue as to what I was starting here. By the title and cover alone I thought it was a Barron-esque deep cosmos thang. I could not have been any more wrong, nor pleasantly surprised. I guess I could have read the synopsis or some of the reviews…duh.
This was written extremely well - Smooth. Funny. Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. An original premise and a very engaging protagonist. Everything about this one worked on just about every level. Well done. 5 Stars for sure.
"Within moments, everything inside me lifted, teased into flight by notes as delicate as the fingers that played them. My skin flushed with sensation. My mouth dropped open. Heart floating in my chest as I breathed shallow sips of air. I'd never known anything so beautiful. Not just the melody, but to see Nadia so transformed, and to feel her oneness with the music...it was astounding. And as those notes tiptoed in the air, coalescing with the lavender to kiss my senses, I felt it--beauty and euphony activating gravitational collapse, the build-up of heat, a chain reaction. It was happening, beyond my control. Nuclear fusion. My sun forming."
How does one go about describing a book like Westlake Soul?
You can't. Not really. It's something that must be experienced, rather than explained. There is magic in the words within these pages, but the real magic is.. life. What we take from it. What we make of it.
Westlake Soul is a 23-year-old former surfing champ from Hallow Falls, Ontario. He's in an unresponsive vegetative state because of a surfing accident. After the tragic events, he woke up a genius. But paralyzed.
Wes is able to penetrate the minds of others, including animals. Hubba-Hubba Artful Soul (Hub, for short) is a Very Good Dog™ and Westlake's only source of communication. Westlake's mental capabilities are limitless, whereas his physical ones are incredibly limited. He can project himself outside of his body to just about anywhere he likes - travelling to the moon, swimming alongside whales and even visiting the woman he likes inside her apartment.. which isn't quite as creepy as it sounds, because Westlake is not that type of dude.
That's the gist of it. I don't want to give too much away, after all! This is one of those books that you should try to go into knowing as little as possible. It does tackle some big themes of love, family, friendship, life and of course, death.
Rio Youers is an author I've been meaning to read for quite some time now. Westlake Soul was the book I wanted to start with, however I had been unable to locate a copy that didn't cost a fortune (we're talking upwards of $900) because it's now out of print. When Youers posted on Twitter that he would send signed copies at a fraction of that cost, I jumped at the chance to buy myself one from my fellow Canadian!
Truthfully, the story wasn't quite what I was expecting. If I had realized it was going to be like this, I may not have read it. But I'm glad that wasn't the case, because I would have been doing myself a disservice by missing out on this gorgeous story.
No, I didn't immediately fall madly at first. I was never considering DNFing it, but the narrative voice of Wes wasn't winning me completely over in the beginning.
But then I realized I couldn't turn the pages fast enough one night, roughly 50 pages in. The emotion was just overwhelming. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a whole fucking symphony of sensations crashing in on me. Westlake Soul ended up being a slow descent into love. A patient type of love that continued to grow. The best kind!
Once I finished, I sobbed into the sleeve of my sweater. Both my mind and body overcome with feelings. This is a bittersweet novel. It's relatively short, but it contains a world of ideas and feelings inside. It's devastating, heart-breaking and intensely meaningful.
WESTLAKE SOUL is an unprecedented work of speculative fiction. Capturing the horrific isolation of a mind that surpasses human potential trapped within an inert body, cut off from his loved ones, save for his faithful dog, yet painfully aware, without a voice.....knowing his family has lost all hope and are contemplating the unspeakable to free themselves from the burden he has become. Little knowing Westlake is so very present, and waging war with what may be the specter of Death in the shadowy form of Dr. Quietus across a mindscape unimaginable. Heartrending and soaringly inventive, Youers weaves Westlake's story with prose that is beautifully human and emotionally powerful.
Highest possible recommendation. Rio Youers is an author to watch.
Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: “All superheroes get their powers from somewhere. A radioactive spider bite. A science experiment gone awry. I got mine from a surfing accident in Tofino. The ultimate wipeout. I woke up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag. . . .”
Meet Westlake Soul, a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion. A loving son and brother. But if you think he’s just a regular dude, think again; Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can’t move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus—a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself.
Westlake dreams of a normal life—of surfing and loving again. But time is running out; Dr. Quietus is getting closer, and stronger. Can Westlake use his superbrain to recover . . . to slip his enemy’s cold embrace before it’s too late?
My Thoughts: This was such a cool idea – a superhero who is basically unable to do anything. I figured the entire story would be taking place in his brain, and thought that would be pretty neat. What I didn’t expect was that it would be so incredibly funny – the scene with the gold finch? Priceless! Westlake has a bad situation, and he’s fairly bitter, but he manages to keep a humorous perspective on it. At least for the first quarter or so of the book – things get a bit more serious after that. But it is well-done and not overly morose. However, it gets into the end-of-life issue – euthanasia, to be blunt. And makes you think – are people who seem to be gone really gone? Maybe they just can’t communicate? Ever heard of locked-in syndrome? Can’t move, can’t talk, seem to be gone – but in reality, that person is completely awake, aware, and feels every indignity, hears every word spoken in his or her vicinity, understands everything. Just can’t get out. Can you imagine that? shudders
Chapter 17 was so beautiful, so sad - I read it with tears in my eyes. And 21? Wow, so heart-breaking. I didn’t know if I could keep reading, ‘cause I’m just not good with heavy emotions like that. I tend toward being depressive, so it’s not usually a good thing for me to read things that will make me sad. But I kept thinking, maybe …. maybe …. and on I went. Fortunately those chapters alternate with chapters that made me angry, about a real jerk named Wayne. Man, I was hoping he would die painfully! You’ll probably feel the same way, or maybe not. I did grow up watching violent movies, you know!
Well, I’ve given you more information about the story than I probably should have, but it was amazing, heart-breaking, breath-taking... difficult to read, but definitely worth it. Highly recommended. Book available 4/12/12 from ChiZine Publications.
I first met Rio Youers at 2010 Horrorfind Weekend in Gettysburg, PA. That day he read from Dark Dreams, Pale Horses and I was instantly a fan. Since then, I've read everything I can get my hands on from this relatively new writer.
Although I discovered Rio at a Horror convention, I wouldn't necessarily call him a Horror writer. Speculative fiction maybe? Actually, he's just a damn fine writer.
Westlake Soul is his best book to date. Westlake is a 23 year old former surfing champion. Now more like a young Stephen Hawking, but much smarter.
After a surfing accident, he wakes up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag.
The story is told by a third party, as directed by Westlake's mind, so it comes across as first person. He communicates telepathically with his dog, Hub. In his mind, he also does epic battle with Dr. Quietus, his archenemy, (doesn't every superhero have one). In addition, Westlake can travel anywhere through a kind of astral projection.
To the outside world, Westlake Soul is in a persistent vegetative state. Westlake's story is at times sadand and often exhilarating, you'll find yourself rooting for him to use his powerful mind to find a way to break through the silence and find a way to recover his life.
Rio Youers deals with some heavy material here and does a fine job of shedding light on how we view accident victims who are left in comas, paralyzed or left in uncommunicative states. This is a beautiful story which made me smile, made me angry and made me cry. It's what a good book should do. I am so looking forward to what comes next from the mind of Rio Youers.
Westlake Soul is available as a Trade Paperback and e-book from Chizine Publications as well as Amazon.com.
Truly brilliant and emotional writing of the highest order.... Westlake Soul dwells in a permanent vegetable state following a surfing accident and he is now lives (if you can call it living) back home with his family. Although he cannot communicate, through his mind and his thoughts we travel with Westlake as he spends what remaining time he has in the presence of those he loves and who in turn love him....there are so many poignant moments in what undoubtedly is a memoir of a young man who constantly asks....what if? Nadia, the girl he was with, on that fateful morning cannot bear the pain and suffering and so there is one final visit...." Those two words again: if only. She put her ipod and headphones back into her beach bag and stood up. The soles of her sneakers squeaked on the floor as she walked toward the door. One final look over her shoulder, the last wedge of snow sliding from her roof. I lay among my tubes and lines like a torn parachute. My cardiac monitor chirped. The door closed softly behind her."
The family decision is taken to stop intravenously feeding Weslake and to grant him release from this living death, and so they gather around his bed in one final show of strength and love..."This is going to be a night with Westlake," Dad said, parking my chair in the middle of the room before taking a seat next to Mom. They clasped each other's hands and that was nice to see. "A night for Westlake. We don't know how long we're going to have-" And here he stopped and his face stiffened and Mom rubbed his back. "We don't know how long Westlake has got, so we're doing this tonight, as a family, united in our love for him, and with a wish that our beautiful son and brother finds everything he wants in the next life."
There is a location at the midway point where Westlake uses the analogy of a plane crash to describe the situation he finds himself in…..“ It wasn’t this fabricated news scene, or the thought of the crash itself- of dying- that unsettled me…but rather the thought of the time it would take for the plane to slam down to earth. Three minutes- or however long- of knowing you are about to die, of hearing the screams of the people around you, complete strangers, who know the same. A different timbre of scream. Harrowing. Pushed out on the final breaths. That’s what unsettled me. The time. And that’s what I’m experiencing now. My plane has lost all four engines and I’m nosediving toward my doom. I used to think that three minutes was a terrifying long time to know that you’re about to die, but it’s nothing – positively heaven- compared to one whole week. Or two”……..
Amidst all this pain there are some lighter moments of humour…Yvette is Westake’s permanent help/nurse and quite often displays bruises from yet another impromptu beating from her boyfriend Wayne. “I’ve told you very little about Wayne, but I’m willing to bet you’ve a fairly accurate picture of him in you head. The kind of guy who has Kimbo Slice wallpaper on his cell phone, and who thinks The Expendables should have won ten Academy Awards.”….
I truly love this story it is a story of sadness, a story about human nature and the bonds of family and love, and a story that ultimately can only have one ending…..but travel with us, travel with Westlake as he rides the big wave and sets out to meet his destiny and embrace his maker….
Wow what a book! This was my first read by Rio Youers and I am officially hooked, I can only wonder how it took me this long to discover his writing. I’ve heard great things about his more recent titles but thanks to a recommendation by a fellow book friend (thank you Steven), I stated with Westlake Soul. The book tells the story of a professional surfer who suffers a debilitating injury while surfing that causes him to become a paraplegic. Westlake gains “superpowers” so to speak and can read the thoughts of others, communicate in hilarious dialogue with his dog Hub, and experience almost any location on and off the planet instantly. In addition he often has to face off against his arch enemy, Dr. Quietus. There is so much emotional weight to the thoughts and actions of Westlake, what a fun, well developed character! I don’t want to give to much of the book away, but through all of Westlake’s adventures and journeys through quantum states and beyond, he summons the courage to go beyond all that he thought he was capable of. The ending of this book continues to be on my mind days after finishing the book, wow, what an ending! Rio Youers has captured me with his “soulful” writing and I cannot wait to experience more of it. My highest recommendation!
Die Geschichte hat mich tatsächlich positiv überrascht. Der Anfang war etwas befremdlich und ich musste nicht so genau, was ich da nun erwartet. Auch was das Genre angeht, finde ich die Angaben die ich gefunden habe eher unpassend. Es passt weder zu Krimi/Thriller noch zu Science Fiction oder Fantasy, obwohl in der Tat die ein oder andere Stelle doch zutreffend ist. Aber für mich persönlich war es ein sehr emotionaler, gefühlvoller und berührender Roman.
Zu viel möchte ich hier eigentlich auch gar nicht erzählen. Es geht um den jungen Surfer Westlake Soul, der sich nach einem Surfunfall im Wachkoma befindet. In dieser Geschichte erfährt man einiges über Westlake, seine Familie und Freunde. Außerdem entwickelt Westlake eine Art "Superkraft" die ihm das Leben im Wachkoma erträglicher macht. Ich fand diese Geschichte wahnsinnig traurig aber auch sehr inspirierend. Ich kann es gar nicht so richtig beschreiben und würde einfach jedem empfehlen das Buch einfach zu lesen und sich selbst einen Eindruck zu verschaffen. Ich war jedenfalls sehr begeistert und werde den Autor definitiv im Auge behalten und gerne noch mehr von ihm lesen.
This book has wrecked me. A masterpiece of originality. heartbreaking. Will make you look at and appreciate life in a whole new way, and that’s not an easy thing to admit for this cynical old bastard. I loved everything about this, and you will too!
I enjoyed that very much. Suspenseful, funny, heartfelt (though a bit sappy for my underdeveloped emotions), and imaginative. It's delivered like a superhero story and that works, given the uncertainty and whether or not the narrator's understanding of reality is to be trusted. Fun idea.
The idea of reading a book about the ramblings of a man in a vegetative state wasn't exciting and this story has rested in my Kindle for months. A weekend trip with no internet or phone service forced me to begin the story. I read it in two sittings. Being a person who believes in possibilities made this book a very enjoyable read. Understanding that it is speculative fiction and not a memoir or a based on any sort of medical reality is essential. If, like myself, you were that person who had to make the decision to dim the lights for a loved one, this book could easily turn into a horror story. As caring human beings, we have to believe that the decisions we make are reached with the best intentions after being fully informed of the consequences. My decision was different in that my father was dying of cancer but I understand the moment of hesitation and the lurking feeling of guilt that Westlake's parents dealt with. There is enough humor in the telling of Westlake's story to keep this from being a maudlin recitation of a life wasted and the battle with Dr. Quietus presents sufficient action to keep one from drifting off into depression. He is a pure graphic novel villain. At my age, stories from a teenagers point of view aren't always my favorites. Westlake is just past his teenage years when he has his accident but the story could be about someone older and obviously wiser than most teens. He also didn't weigh me down with religious platitudes or visions of heaven or a god who was going to save the poor afflicted if we just prayed hard enough. Westlake doesn't believe that anyone or anything is going to save him, other than himself. Mr. Youers gave me the ending I wanted. The one where I get to fill in the blank. Being a person who believes in possibilities you can guess how my epilogue goes.
Sometimes--it happens very rarely--but sometimes you are privileged enough to read a book that touches your soul. A book that makes you feel blessed to have experienced it. A book that makes you look at life in a completely different way. Westlake Soul is one of these books.
Westlake Soul is the story of a man--named Westlake Soul--trapped in his own mind.
After a surfing accident, Westlake's brain suffers too much trauma. He goes into a permanant vegetative state. Unknown to his loved ones, Westlake is very aware of his surroundings--and he's developed a superpower. He can leave his body and go anywhere. Anywhere in the universe. The moon? He's been there. The ocean floor? He's seen it. But the one thing Westlake desperately wants to do is the one thing that alludes him. He wants to show his family that he is still here.
Rio Youers has a way with words that awed me. The battles Westlake has with his nemesis, Dr. Quietus, are epic and wonderful. The writing in these scenes is especially brilliant.
This book also has some very emotional scenes and, because of the fabulous writing, you'll feel like you're right there with Westlake--and you WILL need tissues. Possibly a whole box of them.
And the end? Wow. Just...wow.
I truly hope that the publishers of Westlake Soul do everything they can to get the word out about this amazing book. This is something that NEEDS to be read by as many people as possible.
Thank you, Rio, for writing such a touching, awesome, heartbreaking story.
4.5 stars. Rio is one heck of a writer. This thing kinda wrecked me. I don't cry during books, not sure why because I sure can let loose with a movie, but WESTLAKE SOUL had me tearing up more than once. The read was uncomfortable, beautifully tragic, and the premise unique in every way. If I had a problem with it at all it would be the very end. It was a loose ending and felt anticlimactic considering the beautiful buildup. I wanted more. And had it been there it would have wrecked me even more. Nevertheless, great book, Mr. Youers!
I first discovered Rio's writing last year when I was given an ARC of his then newest novel 'The Forgotten Girl'. It ended up being one of my Top 20 Reads of 2017 and vaulted him to 'must-read' status. Westlake Soul further cements that sentiment and puts him as one of my favorite authors today. Emotionally gripping and terrifying, yet breathtakingly beautiful in its execution, Westlake Soul is one of the best novels I have ever read. Westlake Soul. Twenty-three years old and in the prime of his life, at least until a horrific surfing accident turns him into a vegetable. With his girlfriend moved on and his family trying to cope with the hand they're dealt, Westlake spends his days talking to the family dog, getting sponge baths from his caretaker, and constantly dueling with his arch-nemesis, Dr. Quietus, who is basically the embodiment of Death itself. Oh, did I mention Westlake is a genius?
“All superheroes get their powers from somewhere. A radioactive spider bite. A science experiment gone awry. I got mine from a surfing accident in Tofino. The ultimate wipeout. I woke up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag . . .”
Yeah, I wasn't lying about talking to the family dog, though talking is stretching the truth a bit. It is more of a mind thing, you know, because dogs can't really talk and Westlake can only grunt every so often. People always say they wish they could understand what their dog is thinking. Truth is, it is probably exactly what you expect.
Also, that thing about dueling Dr. Quietus, again true. Dr. Quietus is the embodiment of all horrors, ready to strike when the time is right but beating Westlake down every chance he gets. These interactions often become quite graphic, always formulating into intense fight scenes between good and evil.
Where Rio really shines is character development. Westlake is one of the most fascinating characters I have ever come across, yet he is just like you and me. He yearns for the day when he can be whole again yet is constrained to a chair with a feeding tube, but he is highly optimistic and humorous enough that the reader isn't just emotionally drained by his predicament by the end of the novel. I can't imagine what it is like having a healthy (and powerful) mind but being trapped in a practically dead body, just awaiting the inescapable end, but I would assume it is something like this (minus the super-genius part).
All in all, Westlake Soul is a fantastic piece of literature and will more than likely go on the 'read again' shelf. I also have to give props to Evan Greenberg on the narration, for giving Westlake the voice he deserved and providing excellent pacing throughout the novel.
See this and other reviews on my blog: FanFiAddict.Wordpress.com
I had seen Rio’s work popping up everywhere but at the time I had not experienced any of it myself. Until my friend Wayne brought my attention to Westlake Soul. I had reviewed another book, absolutely gushing over it in my review and he reached out saying, “if you enjoyed that one, I think you will definitely enjoy Westlake Soul”. Wayne couldn’t have been more right!
Wow! A simple remark I know, but honestly it expresses how much I truly am stunned by this reading experience and how much I cherish and will forever adore this read.
Westlake Soul is incredibly powerful! The guts of this story are brimming with emotion. Rio’s writing is absolutely breathtaking and the characters will linger with me for a life time.
Stealing this statement from a fellow booktuber friend of mind (Well Read Beard) Westlake Soul will leave you staring at the white end pages in complete awe.
Since a physical copy is not as easy to come by for this brilliant read, I picked it up on audio. The narrator did a fantastic job. I was completely immersed in this story and would be frustrated if I have to turn it off and set it aside for any amount of time. When I wasn’t listening to it, I was thinking about it. Even now, I just recently finished it but I already want to dive back in.
After completing this story, I knew this was one I HAD to have a physical copy of. Although a bit on the pricey side, it’s extremely worth it for this gem. I grabbed one of the special hardcover editions from SST Publications. Soon, I will have a copy on my shelf to read time and time again. Falling further in love each time I pick it up.
I cannot recommend this read enough! Truly a story I believe everyone needs to experience. From Westlake Soul alone, Rio has become a favourite author and I will be picking up more of his work!
I also can’t thank my friend Wayne enough for bringing my attention to this magnificent piece.
Thank you all for reading Your Super Hero Book Worm Nichi
Being a big fan of Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun," and having the chance to hear Rio Youers read the first few chapters of his latest novel, I was primed and ready to like WESTLAKE SOUL.
I ended up being wrong about that part. I didn't just like the novel, but LOVED it. What can I say that hasn't already been said by other readers? It's a masterpiece of elegant, emotional, funny prose that will captivate you from beginning to end. You don't just know the characters in this book, their DNA coils around your own-- you are these people, you are their hopes, dreams and flaws.
This is the kind of book that will be appreciated for a long time to come.
Critically, I can only suggest that Westlake's last battles and the dire outcome might have gone on longer than I preferred, but this isn't a flaw of technique or story-- I'm an impatient bastard sometimes and I'm prone to beat the table with knife and fork and holler, "Where's my resolution?" And I especially wanted one in this book because I knew, from all I'd read thus far, that Rio Youers would deliver one of the most moving endings I've ever had the pleasure to read.
Wow! This is an amazing story! It’s hard to put into words how this book will make you feel! The love that pours into you, the reader. The hope that fills you all through the story. The terrible tragedy that is always there and the sadness that comes with it! This book will take you through every emotion any human can feel! Wow!
I was twelve years old living in New Jersey when the battle over Karen Ann Quinlan's life became headline news. Her case, presented by her parents to the New Jersey Supreme Court, made national news. The court found in favor of the Quinlans to remove the artificial life support from their daughter. Karen Ann Quinlan lived another ten years, dying from pneumonia.
I always wondered if she dreamed.
Then came the fifteen year legal battle over the life of Terri Schindler Schiavo in which her husband fought to remove her feeding tube and allow Terri to starve to death. The moral debate in both cases brought to the public eye the question of when does a person die? Is there a soul? Is there anything going on when the brain is barely functioning?
Rio Youers addresses these issues in a poetic stream of awareness from a boy who has developed self-proclaimed "superhero" status after a near fatal accident that leaves him with a brain like a "rotten apple." Westlake Soul's parents, girlfriend and doctors are unaware of the fact that Westlake is very much alive in his "wet paper bag" body and can do things in his vegetative state he could never do in the body of a healthy man. He was young and willing to grasp anything in his wake when it came to living. In his dying he ventures to the moon and back.
Youers addresses fear and how it paralyzes the soul. He shows how the bonds of love conquer in ways we cannot imagine. Youers waxes philosophical in the end when Westlake tells of his battle with death in the guise of Dr.Quietus. Through his battle he learns of love and what it means to live.
His first surfing mentor tells him "You can't be afraid, man. Not if you want to be alive."
"The secret of death -- or any inevitability -- is to not be afraid of it." Westlake tells his audience before facing his final wave. "Nothing is accomplished through fear. Once tamed, anything is possible. Anything. That's not only the secret of death, brothers and sisters. . .it's the secret of life, too."
Westlake's voice is strong enough to give this speculative novel spiritual value. He is capable of spreading his message to an insecure man afraid of being hurt, assures his ex-girlfriend she's going to be all right, tells his dog everything is cool.
In the final chapters, I remembered the poignant philosophy of Patrick Swayze's character, Bodhi, in the movie "Point Break:"
"It's not tragic to die doing what you love."
WESTLAKE SOUL carries very much the same message. Life is nothing unless you live it. Westlake made the decision to go surfing that fateful morning instead of staying in bed with his girlfriend. It was his decision to face challenges and live life to the fullest. In doing so, he found beauty in dying.
Westlake learns to appreciate life in his vegetative state by flying around the world gathering the emotions of the world in which he is connected. He builds a wall in order to cross over to the other side, not to hinder his growth but to see beyond the darkness he feared would come with death. He hears a bird's message, appreciates every petal on every flower, the insecurities of an angry man, the sorrows felt by his family. He tastes the nectar from the bees and slakes his thirst for more by finding joy in a sorrowful song. Not What I Expected
WESTLAKE SOUL is not so much about the horror in dying but in not living, the beauty in dying is in living life to its fullest. Rio Youers delivers the message that in life and in death we are all superheroes. Once we realize our potential we toss away our fears and jump off the highest mountain, surf the biggest wave, and love more than we ever thought possible.
This is a well written story, gripping, engaging, emotional, and compelling. WESTLAKE SOUL is more a spiritual journey than a speculative fiction novel.
Bravo, Mr. Youers. I love when a book not only entertains me but lets me take away something I can keep forever. I live my life to its fullest and have always wondered if I would become a superhero when I died. I've wondered what people in comas dream about or what my friend's child who is brain dead thinks about as he stares at the wall.
Now I know. He's a superhero off saving the world.
WESTLAKE SOUL is one of those books you give to a friend who is going through a hard time with pending death. A good read with a strong message. Sometimes the greatest things in life come to us in ways we don't expect. We cannot know what happens to our souls when it's our time to see the Light. Until then, we need to grasp on to our little suns and go surfing whenever we can.