Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

American Elsewhere

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Horror (2013)
Some places are too good to be true.

Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map. In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things. After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother's home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother's past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different ...

From one of our most talented and original new literary voices comes the next great American supernatural novel: a work that explores the dark dimensions of the hometowns and the neighbors we thought we knew.

662 pages, Paperback

First published February 12, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robert Jackson Bennett

28 books17.8k followers
Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. His eighth novel, FOUNDRYSIDE, will be available in the US on 8/21 of 2018 and the UK on 8/23.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,723 (25%)
4 stars
2,622 (39%)
3 stars
1,607 (24%)
2 stars
538 (8%)
1 star
156 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 986 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,536 reviews7,875 followers
January 31, 2022
from my blog (with photos from one of my New Mexico trips): https://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2015/...

Lovely language and enjoyable storytelling, but suffers from a mild case of W.o.K.S. (Way of Kings Syndrome). I happen to have a fondness for New Mexico and enjoyed the general premise, so I found the book quite enjoyable, no matter the winding process of arriving there.

It begins with Mona, an ex-cop, in probate court as the officer goes through disposition of her father’s possessions. Surprisingly, there is a deed to a house in Wink, New Mexico that belonged to her mother. She’s shocked, as her mother killed herself some years ago, and her history in Wink has never been mentioned. Currently jobless, she decides to check it out before selling. She makes her way through the mountains and discovers a small road leading to a secluded valley.

(picture from blog has, alas, been removed)

When she arrives at the small community of Wink in the mountains of New Mexico, she discovers the Stepford-like citizens are hiding deep secrets. After her arrival awkwardly interrupts a funeral, she manages to find an odd, run-down motel near the edge of town.

“There is something strangely perfect about this part of town. It is like she’s walking through old photographs or home movies, images layered with longing and nostalgia. Even if they are hollow or overgrown with ivy on the inside.”

The house is both familiar and foreign, leaving her with a sense of déjà vu:

“She can see light spots on the wooden floor where furniture stood for years on end. The same faint patches appear in spots on the wall where pictures once hung. It’s like she’s in a room of reverse shadows.”

Did I mention I’m a sucker for New Mexico? Bennett weaves in otherworldly beings in the quiet wild spaces that initially reminded me of Native American myths.

Picture Petroglyph, New Mexico, 2008 (see on blog)

However, Bennett goes beyond mythology by bringing in the Coburn Laboratory and otherworldly beings. The words “Lovecraftian,” and “horror” are tossed about in reviews, but I found myself pleased that it felt like neither of those genres to me. While I thought Bennett did a nice job creating his own atmosphere and mythology, and weaving it with a semi-modern setting, I’d say that stylistically it most reminds me of deLint. And I mean that in the best possible way: Lovecraft comes with a great deal of social baggage and, for me, overly-elaborate language, while horror often comes with an emphasis on the macabre. All that said, while I felt satisfied at the finish, I realized there were some parts that could have benefited from trimming (further thoughts below spoiler).

Bennett’s writing is enjoyable, descriptively perfect for a story dependent on atmosphere, but firmly avoiding purple prose. Characters are interesting, developed, although not quite as full as I would expect, given the 600 plus pages of the edition I read. Many reviewers will mention how well Bennett writes Mona, particularly for a man. Her history as a police officer felt mostly tacked on. Personally, I felt she was a little one-dimensional; I eventually welcomed the other perspectives, however digressive, because it gave me a break from her obsessing about her mother and her childhood.

At any rate, despite the time I took me, I enjoyed reading it a great deal. I waited to pick it up until I could devote larger chunks of time, losing myself in the atmosphere and enjoying the ride. Recommended, particularly if you like the slow build of the weird.

“It’s easy, Mona thinks, to understand why so many prophets found gods while wandering out in the desert. Because there cannot be any place on earth as strange and empty as a desert. Merely passing through it warps your thoughts: your perceptions of how the world works are broken down with each empty mile until civilization feels like a dream.”

Picture of Abiquiu, New Mexico (see on blog)

spoiler below:
Profile Image for LIsa Noell "Rocking the Chutzpah!.
580 reviews159 followers
December 3, 2021
My review of this is lost. Fine.😤😤
I loved this book! It was intense. Best of all? It was a whole novel. And a damn good one! I'd read it again in a decade or so!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,973 followers
February 9, 2017
First of all, I did enjoy this book... in general. There's a lot to love and I've always been a fan of any book that can cross genres, mixing SF/Fantasy/Horror into a wonderful smoothie. This is my third Bennett book, so I knew what I was getting into.

Unfortunately, I liked this less than the other two: City of Stairs and City of Blades.

It's kinda surprising, actually. I grew up in New Mexico, so getting the flavors and the horrors of the location should have been so nice, and I did enjoy the nostalgia, as far as that went. I knew to expect an epic blowout, too, so that was something I really wanted to see. Fortunately, I'm given that treat as well.

The small-town oddities devolved into a small-town family fight, in essence, but because this is Bennett, just expect the consequences to get way out of hand. As in universe-shaping uglies duking it out in all the old grand traditions of the genres, but localized in a sleepy New Mexican town. It's nice. Very nice. Full props for ideas and exploration and twists within the characters we get to know.

But here's where it's not so great: The pacing has a lot to be desired. It suffers from that old horror-cliche where a lot of digressions fill up most of the book. Sometimes it is in the service of the greater story, and sometimes it isn't.

I could easily overlook all of that if it wasn't for just one little thing: we probably didn't need the long and painful explanations. I think the novel would have been stronger if it rested on the hints and profound eerie-ness and suppositions. It just wasn't set up right for an epic denouement of gods releasing all their secrets, IMHO. It took away from the horror and the tension, big-time, even if it satisfied some of my SF roots.

So, in effect, I'd have preferred a fully "Show, don't Tell" resolution. It might have been just fine to omit the offending passages, after all, the action was there and it was quite enjoyable.

If I were in a more forgiving mood, I probably would have just given this a full five stars and be done with it, but I've read those other works of his and they didn't suffer from this complaint, or at least not nearly as badly as here.

Putting this in context with other Horrors and SF, there's still a lot to love and I don't want to steer anyone away from this novel. If you forgive a bit of meandering and exposition (common traits in Horror and SF, respectively,) then I'm certain you'll be all over this like flies on a cowpie. :)

Always expect big things under the surface with Bennett. :) I have yet to be dissatisfied with his idea-wrangling.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
November 3, 2021
Hey, I have a booktube channel (youtube for book reviews, etc.), and I include American Elsewhere in my Top 10 Underrated Books list here. Please subscribe if I earned it!

I gotta get this out of my system right off the bat. I don't like the cover to this book. It doesn't stand out, it's only mildly representative of the story, which is rich and vibrant (i.e., the cover is bland and boring), and it's just plain blah. Hate it.

Whew, that felt good. Now back to our regularly-scheduled review.

Other than the cover, this novel was brilliant, as I already expected after reading only one other book by Robert Jackson Bennett. That book, The Troupe, happened to be my favorite book of 2012 as well and he does not disappoint in this instance.

I hesitate to make comparisons, but there are elements of H.P. Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman. But the problem is, no one compares to Bennett's imagination. That's what I learned in The Troupe and what's reinforced in American Elsewhere.

The prologue grabs you right away, I recommend reading it asap. I'm sure it's free somewhere, just keep your wallet ready. Then the mysteries keep building up until about 200 pages into this 660 page book, when suddenly the reveals begin and the whole entire two third plus of the book is one crazy ride. It's compelling from page one and though large, this book doesn't let up.

I've strayed from actually describing events. I guess I'll leave that to the description on Goodreads because if I told you, I'd have to kill you ... erm ... I really have no clue how to describe this book without giving way too many spoilers.

Suffice it to say, go read it, it's creepy, weird, gross, creepy, and super creepy. And awesome. Oh, and it's stand-alone.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,006 followers
March 5, 2019
Some places are too good to be true.

Wink isn't one of them. In fact, it isn't very nice at all, in my opinion. It's a small, boring, old-fashioned town in New Mexico. And you can't leave. Think "Pleasantville," but with a deep underlying creepiness, deadly lightening strikes, and a curfew that starts at sundown.

The town was so unappealing, in fact, that I wondered if Bennett making a point about how we're not only willing to sell ourselves (and our children) for tangible benefits, we're willing to do so for fairly marginal returns of limited security.

This isn't the main point, though, just something I was thinking about while reading.

I didn't enjoy this quite as much as my previous RJB read, City of Stairs, mostly because it was too long. I would be fine with the length were plot complexity, but there was a lot or repeated instances of more or less the same thing that could have been cut for a more dynamic pace.

Other than that, it was fun. The varying degrees of otherness and semi-assimilation were interestingly nuanced, although there were so many minor and plot-irrelevant characters that -- hey, it just occurred to me that this would make a good tv series. Although it would probably be better if the show didn't end with .

The spoiler (that you probably shouldn't click unless you read the book already or aren't going to, or just don't mind spoilers) leads to my next discussion point:

Because it is possible for something to enter your world that is so vast, so terrible, so foreign, that you cannot coexist with it: you must, in some way or another, vacate the premises.

Do you think this is true? I'm not convinced that the human psyche is so fragile that alien-ness and non-Euclidean geometry would drive every one of us to madness and death. I know this is a trope from Lovecraft (and the Book of Exodus, and the death of Semele, and probably a bunch of other stories, but I think Bennett and most other modern American fantasists are taking this straight from HPL) so I'm not trying to pick on this book in particular, I'm just curious about how others regard this plot device.

Profile Image for Michael Smith.
24 reviews1 follower
February 15, 2014
Two stars feels sort of harsh, but the definition given by this site is 'it was ok', and that pretty much sums up my feelings about this book.

This novel has both horror and science fiction aspects and both of them were a little lacking. As a horror novel, it lacked much true 'creepiness'. Most of the novel is spent describing over and over how the town of Wink is different and that there are all of these unspoken rules, and that the residents know to just go about their business and keep their heads down. The idea given in the description that Wink is a perfect town with something sinister going on is never really developed, because we know something weird is going on the entire time. It never seems like a normal town. There are some gory scenes and some disturbing images, but the horror is much more physical than psychological. When the true form of the creatures is unveiled, it is like a B horror movie from the 70's. I was a little disappointed in the cliche appearance of the creatures.

The sci-fi aspect was sort of interesting, but in the end was not satisfying. I'm fine with soft sci-fi, but this was exasperating at times.

This review makes it sound like there was nothing good about the book, but that is not the case. It was entertaining enough that I finished it in a few readings despite the length, and it feltlike a fast read. There was just nothing exceptional about it. It was ok.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,133 followers
March 3, 2020
4 and a half stars, rounded up.

The first few chapters of “American Elsewhere” sets up this story as a blend of “The Stepford Wives” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and Lovecraftian horror. And it is, but it also isn’t. Robert Jackson Bennett has a very unique voice, and while he might certainly have been influenced by the classics of creepy, he does his own thing. Brilliantly. Also, dude loves “The X-Files”.

Wink, New Mexico. That's where the house Mona Bright, former police officer, has inherited from her mother is located. It's not on any map, which is odd, but Mona doesn't care: for her this is a chance to get to know the mother she barely knew, the one her father never wanted to tell her anything about. So she decides to claim the house – and her past – but quickly finds out that there is something a little off about Wink. People behave with quaint charm and neighborly manners, all houses are perfectly maintained, lawns manicured to green lushness (in New Mexico!) and everybody loves eating pie at the diner: it is as if the town was flash-frozen in a Mid-Century Modern postcard. While that’s not unpleasant per se, it feels strained to Mona, especially after she is told it’s best not to wander around the town at night. What was her mother doing here, all those years ago? Why does no one remember her ever living there? What is the deal with the abandoned government lab right outside the town?

One of the things I love most about Bennett is that he sneaks opinions into his stories, but they are so well woven into the narrative that he never comes across as didactic (except maybe in “Vigilance” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), where his profound dislike of guns is obviously the point). Just under the surface of this weird story, there is a commentary about what we are willing to sacrifice for what we perceive as safety. What we are willing to look away from so we can buy ourselves a little comfort, what we are willing to pretend to be to feel included… The weird spin on “Pleasantville” he paints with “American Elsewhere” features many people who don’t feel like they can be themselves, who suffocate in the so-called perfection of the small town; it reminded me of growing up in suburbia – but I’m sure anyone who also lived in a small town and just had to get out will empathize with the sense of claustrophobia infused in these pages.

This is an earlier novel than my beloved “Divine Cities” trilogy, and I feel that it shows by being a little over-drawn. This affects the pacing a bit (it also makes the book ridiculously heavy and impractical to carry around… seriously, Orbit, get your shit together and make smaller editions!), but I didn’t mind too much. Bennett’s imagination and his talent for twisting tropes on their heads and making them fresh and vibrant makes up for the extra pages, and I burned through it faster than I expected!

Another thing that Bennett does really well and that I appreciate deeply is writing up interesting, well-rounded female characters – with actual personalities, issues and baggage. They are never defined by their sexuality or gender or attractiveness, and they are usually tough, but also layered enough to be completely believable. Thank you, Robert, thank you so much for that! Mona is unusual in many ways, but what he showcases most is how driven she is, how difficult it is for her to allow herself to be in a vulnerable place – while desperately longing to understand the enigmatic figure that is her mother.

Every book I read by Robert Jackson Bennett makes me admire him more, for his intensely readable prose, his wild imagination and the food for thought he casually throws in the mix. Not everyone can mash up genres and come up with such great books! Read this man’s work, he is one of the best speculative fiction writers active today.
Profile Image for Kaora.
569 reviews281 followers
April 12, 2015
I'm not quite sure what I expected when I picked this up, but it wasn't that. In a good way.

The blurb for this was pretty straightforward. Strange smalltown with perfectly manicured lawns, suspicious residents with secrets. Similar to many other books that I have read.

However, this book quickly turned the typical strange but seemingly perfect small town on its ass, becoming a mindfuck of a book that kept me transfixed to the very end. And I loved every second of it.

Robert Jackson Bennett continues to impress me with his writing, having first popped up on my radar with City of Stairs. I am looking forward to seeing what else he has written.

The main character, Mona, is an ex-cop with a horrible past. She is strong, and smart and I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the world through her eyes. The book jumps around quite a bit, but instead of being confusing I believe it paints a thorough picture of this world and everyone in it.

I can't talk too much about the book without ruining it, but it was a dark book, that would appeal to any horror lover.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Steve.
962 reviews94 followers
December 29, 2015
I had another night in which I couldn’t sleep, so I finished another book. This book is one I struggled with; it didn’t seem to go anywhere for long periods of reading, and the ending was lackluster.

The writing wasn’t bad and there was a pretty good level of mystery and creepiness. The problem was that I never really liked or cared for any of the characters (even the main character), and the mystery of the mesa took way too long to reveal itself. By the halfway point, I couldn’t wait for the book to end.

Ultimately, I think the story could have been trimmed by about 200 pages or more, simply by editing out the chapters specifically about the Wick residents. I get that the town was different, I get that there are things that can’t be revealed, and I get that there is a distinct oddness to everything around the town and on the mesas. I don’t need to read about it over and over in interludes between the chapters in which the plot moves forward.
Profile Image for Bibliophile.
781 reviews73 followers
August 13, 2013
This is a lovely horror story about the American dream gone badly wrong, to put it mildly. The idyllic small town of Wink in New Mexico is full of well-tended lawns, content housewives and afternoon martinis on the porch. Time seems to stand still (except when Time completely derails)and nobody has set foot outside the town for years. Of course, unspeakable evil lurks in the night, and the inhabitants wisely turn a blind eye to the nasty goings-on in the woods and make "arrangements" in order to maintain their lifestyle. When a stranger arrives and people start dropping like flies, it all goes to hell in a very entertaining way.

It's horror with a heart. The unspeakable evil is pretty mean, but it has its reasons for acting shitty. Nothing a few years of therapy couldn't fix. I like that. There's nothing more boring than evildoers with no motivation for their evildoing. The horror is both quietly creepy and charmingly over-the-top (there are tentacles). It's moving and funny, the plot holds together and the "science" of it all makes sense within that particular universe. What more can you ask for?

I'll tell you what. Well-rounded female characters. Actually, just to find female characters who get to actually do stuff (rather than be used as props) in fiction is not a given. To find females who are believable, tough and funny and above all, not defined by their gender is rare. Bennett creates wonderful women, whether good, evil or in-between, human or not so much. It's a big part of why I found the story so enjoyable - no stale stereotypes to annoy me.

Warmly recommended.

Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
July 28, 2020
On sale 28Jul20 as the Kindle Daily Deal $2.99

Buddy Read May 11, 2020 with Buddies Books and Baubles




So yeah that about sums it up.

I don’t want to give too much away because the fun part of the book was teasing out all the strangeness and there was a lot of it.

⤳ A town that can’t be found on any map

↝ A pink moon in the sky

⇝ A strange creature with a rabbit skull head killing people

↬ Spots no one is allowed to go unless you have an arrangement

And much much more.

The downfall of this book is that it takes a long time to get going and I can see why many might get distracted and not come back to it. Everything is just odd and while you want to know why, there are a lot of pages to get through to figure it out.

I liked Mona the main character whose mother lived in Wink and then one day just left. Mona has come back some 30 years after her mother’s death to claim the house she just found out about and try to find out more about the mother who has been gone for so long. She is about to get so much more than she bargained for.

This book was long and part of it got a little sciency with explanations, even for me. But overall I was engrossed in figuring out what was happening in why it just took a little longer than I wanted it to.

Definitely a different Robert Jackson Bennett read
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
November 15, 2014
4.5 Stars

I am a huge fan Robert Jackson Bennett and I cannot wait to read all of his works. American Elsewhere is a mysterious horror novel that has many great things to love.

First, there is the unusual town and location of this novel a called Wink. A small south western town that does not show up on any maps. We are treated to several chapters involved with our heroine just trying to find this place in New Mexico.

Second, the lead character Mona is tough, smart, and not your stereo typical young gorgeous female lead. She is a troubled and down to earth character that is easy to identify with. She carried the weight of this story easily and her motivations were clear from the start.

Third, Bennett is simply brilliant. His writing style, descriptions and prose would work in any genre. He slowly adds layer upon layer to the mystery and then more than thirty percent in does he let things unfold. Ha, unfold is way too calm and simplistic of a word to describe the way that the mystery and Mona's life explode as things are made clear. The reveals are what make this book special and I cannot give anything away.

Finally, the strange story and plot remind me so much of one of my favorite series by one of my favorite authors. This book could slide right into Tim Lebbon' Noreela series. A dark horror fantasy hybrid that is not for the young adult crowd. So much of this story, the atmosphere, the world building, and even the outcome would fit right in....Awesome!!!

I loved this book and devoured it. The mystery, the atmosphere, and the outcome are top notch...my highest recommendations...
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews529 followers
December 24, 2013
Wow. This is my WTF, utterly gonzo, batshit-weird horror novel of the year. Carnivale meets Twin Peaks via Transformers, with healthy dollops of Stephen King, Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.

The ‘darkness / unknown things behind a small-town façade’ theme reached perfection with Clifford Simak and Ray Bradbury, and one can hardly imagine that these masters can be bettered.

Robert Jackson Bennett, however, not only pays homage to, but totally transcends, the theme.

Just when you think you know where this novel is headed – after all, we are smart readers who know our genre history and tropes – Bennett introduces something even more outré and shocking, but in perfect harmony with the apocalyptic logic of this incendiary tale.

I am always going to look at Gene Kelly with a slightly jaundiced eye after reading this.
Profile Image for Tracey.
1,005 reviews16 followers
February 28, 2013
I loved the first 400 pages, but then the book took a turn that I didn't particulary enjoy and it never found its way back. My first impression was that this was a really smart novel examining the ideas revolving around leaky spots in the space/time continum. But then it became this rather ridculously silly human drama, with petty siblings who look like....giant squids or some such creature. And Mona, she's just a dull and rather insipid protagonist. Not much in here for me it turns out...
Profile Image for Jon Recluse.
381 reviews252 followers
March 25, 2013
Take an homage to small town America, circa 1950. Mix in a healthy dose of science fiction from that decade, filtered through a contemporary sensibility. Add a dash of mystery and present in a style best described as "literary".
What you wind up with in this case is something that is more than the sum of it's parts. American Elsewhere is an incredible book, and that's coming from someone who hates science fiction.

Profile Image for Bill.
1,548 reviews109 followers
September 30, 2018
In Wink it is best to live your life as if you are being watched. Because you probably are.

My first RJB and damn this dude can write. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and was more than pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The story was paced well, if a little long in spots and the characters had depth and were highly relatable.

I’m having a hard time classifying this one. It had elements of fantasy, sci-fi, horror and mystery/thriller. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a wee worried on more than one occasion that it was going to go full on fantasy/sci-fi on me because that’s not my bag, but luckily it didn’t.

Reminded me a bit at times of Barker, Gaiman, Hill and maybe even a little King. I f’n hate it when authors are compared to King, however, the point I am trying to make is more one of content execution than writing style comparisons. And don’t get me wrong, RJB has his own unique voice and it comes across nicely on the page. There are worse things than to be reminded of those guys while reading too.

I look forward to more from this author and am very interested in seeing what else he can do.

A highly enjoyable experience and a solid 4 Stars.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,136 followers
November 27, 2018
A slice of modern American Gothic, Lovecraft style. Spookily 50s-perfect small town, things from Outside, tentacles, things mortal eyes were not meant to see nor mortal minds get themselves round, the lot. It's very well written (except, shame about the present tense narrative which i couldn't see was necessary *is old*) and a huge amount of horrific fun with a terrific Mexican-American heroine kicking arse. I had a vague feeling that the last third was operating on a wing and a prayer with the author rather finding out where the book was going as he went along, but it didn't lose my interest at any point. And of course it entirely confirms my opinions on perfect Southern US small towns.
Profile Image for Catinmybrain.
85 reviews17 followers
June 21, 2022
The story of a woman inheriting a home in a small town of Wink. A town that's not on any of the maps of New Mexico. A place full of strange people and stranger weather, where nobody goes out at night. Also there's an abandoned lab where scientists tried to use a special lens to create 'dimensional bruising'. A breakdown of the barriers of reality, that touched a higher plane of existence full of unnameable gods.

And something came through.

And decided to stay.

American Elsewhere certainly has elements that are "Lovecraftian" but a lot of the story is more concerned with family. Dealing with loved ones we never really knew or understood and the secrets behind their daily lives. Only in this case the family is both human and...something else.

In many Lovecraftian stories the humans seek the awesome might of the old ones, in American Elsewhere the old ones seek the freedom in the quiet irrelevance of human life.

Like Neil Gaiman meets F. Paul Wilson the story is part supernatural detective yarn and part supernatural whimsy.

On the negative side the exposition gets a little heavy and pulls down the pacing of the plot a bit too much. The cast of characters is a mixture of kinda bland (the protagonist) and really intriguing.

If it sounds like it might be something that would interest you? It probably will. 7/10

A part of my giant-sized Review Round-Up: https://www.patreon.com/posts/68034532
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
May 15, 2015
‘...it is always quiet near homes like this, and it is always ill-advised to venture out at night in Wink. Everyone knows that. Things could happen.’

After her estranged father suffers a stroke, Mona Bright uncovers documents revealing she inherited a house from her late mother in a town called Wink, New Mexico. Not having anywhere to call home she decides to set out to see this house in this strange town that she has never heard of. Wink becomes extremely hard to find, not being on any maps as Wink was a town built around an old research station that her mother apparently worked at which was shut down in the 1970s. Once Mona finally does discover the town it appears to be a picture-perfect little town, however as time passes she realizes that there is something about the Stepford Wives type of perfection that is extremely unsettling as well as the information she uncovers about her mother, Laura Alvarez. The memories Mona has of her mother are of an extremely troubled woman that one day took a shotgun into the bathroom with her and the discovery that her mother was actually a quantum psychist at the lab in the 70s is baffling to her. Mona begins an investigation to uncover the mystery of her mother and her presence in the mysterious town of Wink.

‘Some places in Wink are more than one place. Some places take you places you never expected. Rooms within rooms, doors within doors, worlds hidden within a thimble or a teacup.
You just have to know where to look.’

While the initial mystery that drives Mona is the mystery of her mother, she slowly begins to be consumed with the complete enigma of the town and its inhabitants instead. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Mona, but we are also given snippets through the eyes of some of the townspeople where we can see firsthand just how incredibly strange it is to live in this picturesque little town. American Elsewhere contains extremely vivid characterization; it doesn’t matter how much time is spent focusing on the individual each one is unforgettable whether because of the imagery alone or the shockingly horrific stories that correlate with these people.

The build-up to the final resolution is exhilarating despite the daunting amount of pages you’re up against as a reader. While you may be able to pick up on some obvious hints as to what is truly going on in Wink, Bennett still manages to throw in some shocking twists that will definitely surprise you. Make no mistake, this is not some simple story of a strange suburban community; American Elsewhere is an amazing example of intricately structured plotlines and also the complete defiance of genre boundaries. I went into this book fairly blind (I definitely recommend this) and found the hefty dose of science fiction blended with a good amount of horror to be quite unexpected. American Elsewhere left me thoroughly impressed and will most assuredly be picking up more of Bennett’s works.

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Charles Dee Mitchell.
853 reviews56 followers
March 17, 2013
When her alcoholic father dies, ex-cop Mona Bright discovers that part of her inheritance is a house once owned by her mother in the town of Wink, New Mexico. Mona's mother committed suicide, and Mona has all the unresolved issues that history provides. She wants to see the house, if for no other reason than to sell it, but she cannot find Wink on the map or any evidence that the town exists. When she does discover it, it is "picture postcard pefect." In other words, it is too good to be true, creepy as hell the closer she looks, and apparently a gateway between our world and an elsewhere that has so taken over Wink that the moon shines pink and the smart people don't leave home after dark.

Bennett's set up makes room for a narrative that is part detective story, part science fiction, and part Lovecraftian, multi-dimensional horror tale. (Yes, there will be tentacles.) The straight SF elements revolve around the ruins of Coleman laboraties, where Mona's mother was an important researcher. This was one of those facilities that comes straight out of 1950's SF, although the author is so young he has to set the activities at Coleman in the 1980's Big science takes place here, and of course it has had catastrophically unexpected consequences. Enter the tentacles. Creatures from another dimension have settled in Wink, preserving it as an eerie, pristine time capsule of what they found on their arrival. In another realm they were beleaguered gods. Here some inhabit human bodies while other exist as much less presentable creatures in canyons, caves, and the mesa outside the city.

And of course everything is beginning to fall apart. Mona's arrival coincides with the supposedly impossible murder of one of their kind. Complications and weirdness build to such a degree that the book often has to slow down for a whole lot of explaining to take place. Bennett is usually good at embedding these info-dumps in narrative, and a scene involving Gene Kelly in An American in Paris is one of his great set pieces.

I would have enjoyed all this much more than I did if it had wound itself up a good 200 or more pages sooner. But looking at other reader reviews, the length does not seem a deterrent to other's embrace of the novel. I was ready for things to be over to such a degree that it took a while, during the last hundred pages or so, for me to absorb the genuine pathos and anguish that Bennett successfully conveys, both among the humans and the pandimensional squiddy things.
Profile Image for Melanie.
264 reviews45 followers
July 27, 2020
I debated putting this under my WTF category, because there's quite a bit of that going on here. If you're wondering how to get through a 662 page doorstopper, rest assured it doesn't feel at all that mammoth while reading it, although there were a couple of places where the pace slowed down a bit.

A GR with the crew at Horror Aficionados. Thanks for the fun HA-ers, I love having chats about RJB :)
Profile Image for Ints.
735 reviews72 followers
April 24, 2017
Bija tāda lieta, ka es pēc “Kāpņu pilsētas” izlasīšanas nopirku gandrīz visas Beneta grāmatas. Biju apņēmības pilns tās visas izlasīt un tā tālāk. Taču kaut kā sanāca tā, ka nekad viņām nav laika, un lasīšanas process ievilkās uz nenoteiktu laiku. Nu gan varu teikt, ka nekas daudz man vairs nav atlicis.

Dažas vietas uz pasaules ir pārāk labas, lai būtu īstas. Mona pēc tēva nāves atklāj, ka ir mantojusi māju pilsētiņā, kura nav atrodama uz kartes. Pilsētiņa saucas Vink, tā ir perfekta. Viņa sevī iekļauj amerikāņu sapni – klusas ieliņas, skaistas mājas un smaidīgus cilvēkus. Taču tā ir tikai fasāde, aiz kuras slēpjas ļoti, ļoti dīvainas lietas. Vink cilvēki par tām nerunā, jo tas nav labais tonis, taču rekomendē naktī ārā neiet, pa logiem neskatīties, un pat ja tev deg māja, izlikties, ka nekas nenotiek.

Grāmatas apraksts solīja kaut ko līdzīgu Lavkrafta darbiem, un solījums piepildījās pēc pilnas programmas. Grāmatas centrālā tēma ir par to, ka pasaule nebūt nav tāda, kāda tā izskatās. Varētu teikt, ka visnotaļ novazāta, bet šad un tad autori pamanās atrast tajā ko jaunu vai vismaz izstāstīt pietiekoši interesanti. Te nu viņa ir atrodama daudzos slāņos. Pilsētiņa un tās noslēpumi. Iedzīvotāji, kuri visi ir jauki cilvēki, bet aiz dažu fasādes uz tevi noraugās īsts monstrs. Šajā stāstā bieži vien monstrs ir īsts, bet reizēm tāds var būt arī vienkāršais cilvēks. Cita dvēselē jau neielīdīsi. Par to, ka šausmīgas lietas vai notikuma definīcija ir visnotaļ stiepjams jēdziens, un pie daudz kā var pierast, ja pretī tiek saņemts kaut kas taustāms. Par to, ka zinātnieki ne vienmēr saprot savus eksperimentus un reiz var gadīties tā, ka skatoties uz kaut ko mums paskatīsies pretī un atnāks ciemos uz palikšanu.

Mona ir izbijusi policiste, kura augusi ģimenē ar māti šizofrēniķi, kura Monas bērn��bā izdarīja pašnāvību, tas atstājis viņai paliekošu traumu. Uz Vink viņa dodas, lai rastu atbildes par savu māti, taču neviens neko viņai neprot pastāstīt. Nāks vien pielietot visas savas policistes prasmes, lai izdibinātu patiesību. Lieki piebilst, ka atradumi nudien nepriecē. Viņas stāsts un pilsētiņas iedzīvotāju stāsts ir arī par mātes mīlestību un pieaugšanu. Grūti to aprakstīt nedaudz nenomaitekļojot. Lai arī kāds tu nebūtu radījums, pienāk brīdis, kad tavi un Mātes uzskati vairs nesakrīt, un sākas Bērnu dumpis. Reizēm kādam šķiet, ka viņam netiek pievērsta pietiekama uzmanība un viņš cenšas tikt ievērots, reizēm Bērns zina, kā ir labāk. Vink iedzīvotāju daļai šī tēma ir ļoti aktuāla, un dzīve bez Mātes ir ne tikai pārbaudījums, bet arī jauna iespēja. Nekad vēl nebiju lasījis pusaudžu krīzes problēmas šādā rakursā.

Šāds stāsts nevar iztikt bez pietuvinātajiem un atstumtajiem, ir tādi, kuri dzīvo mājās un tādi, kuriem nākas dzīvot mežā. Skaidrs, ka atstumtajiem šāda kārtība šķiet nepieņemama, bet neko daudz jau viņi nevar padarīt. Vispār jau var, un te parādās grāmatas antagonisti, kuri uzskata, ka vecākie ir viņus apzināti nostūmuši no siles, un ir pienācis laiks kaut ko darīt lietas labā. Viņu plāns un viltība pēc saviem mērogiem ir episki.

Grāmata iešūpojas lēni, pirmās pārsimts lapaspuses lasītājs var tikai nojaust notiekošā apmērus, bet tad viņš vairs netiek ārā no grāmatas līdz nav izlasījis visu līdz galam. Ja vēlies kaut ko interesantu un nestandarta, ar nedaudz šausmām, nedaudz par cilvēcību, tad silti iesaku šo grāmatu. 9 no 10 ballēm.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,263 reviews222 followers
January 12, 2016
Well-written horror/SF where a disaffected heroine arrives in a deeply weird town bringing long-simmering events to a head.

Mona Bright is a homeless drifter living out of a truck when she receives notification that her father has died. When she goes through his will she finds out that she has inherited a house from him that was originally her mother's in the New Mexico town of Wink. Her mother committed suicide when Mona was a girl, so Mona not only sees this as a chance to get her life on track, but to find out more about her. It turns out that her mother was a particle physicist which doesn't really match with her memories of a depressed bitter woman.

Then things get really weird, because Wink isn't on any maps and only a handful of people know about it. Once she gets there people act very strangely and she is constantly warned not to go out at night.

The story switches between Mona's perspective and that of various inhabitants of Wink, which is really interesting given some of them have a really bizarre origin. If I had to give an elevator pitch I would describe the book as Welcome to Night Vale crossed with Eureka, but of course it's full of Robert Jackson Bennett's strong voice.

The only criticism I would level here is that it's overly long and some of the horror elements are dragged out for atmospheric rather than story-line purposes. Still very good.

Profile Image for Eddie.
145 reviews26 followers
August 30, 2015
Scifi Horror Mystery Fantasy all rolled up into one!! and then some!!!

Yes the book is freggin huge, But it is NEVER boring. ALOT of things don't make sense, but everything gets explained, and then some..

Alien tentacle sex between an alien and a *cough* 'rather' young girl.

Family dysfunction that makes my earthly family seem quite normal!!

Illicit drugs being made the old fashioned way, An alien squirting it out of its ass like its taking a big white powdery crap!!

And the ending, Just when you thought you have read everything, the book gets emotional, and touching, and heart warming, in a rather good way!!

and if you are into the 'science' of this type of stuff.. read Dissonance But I warn you... It is a doozie of a good book!!

Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews180 followers
January 8, 2016
I think I thought I loved this book about fifty pages in.

I knew I loved this book about one hundred pages in.

I think I knew it was going down as one of my favorites about two hundred pages in, and then I still had four hundred to go.

I didn't want it to end, but it did, and it's easily one of the weirdest, strangest, most straightforward weird/horror books I've read. It's a little ahead of its time, too - if this had come out in 2015 it would be heralded as the book that could propel the New Weird into mainstream acceptance, but instead it's a little/not little 2013 title that won some horror awards and has otherwise not shown up on my radar, and that's a shame, because this is an absolute gem of a book.

The story follows Mona. She has inherited a house in a small town called Wink in New Mexico, and it's become a hassle to even find this town, never mind get information on her mother and what's part of the inheritance. As she makes her way through town, nothing seems quite right. As a police officer, her senses are tingling a bit, the woman at the town hall is strange, and the guy who runs to motel perhaps a little too friendly for a place that doesn't ever seem to have customers.

And then things get strange.

The pleasure I derived from this book comes more from the little reveals along the way, from the small vignettes of townspeople and the happenings to how it all comes together only to unravel again as the story goes on. While the ideas perhaps fail to break any new ground from a storytelling standpoint, it's ultimately how Bennett ties them all together in an off-putting, uncomfortable way that makes this book so much more special than your typical horror/weird tale. And I didn't see the end coming, which was nice. Or, for that matter, the middle. Or much of anything - it's familiar enough to not feel absurd while still being completely strange nearly from page one.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's not a difficult read even though it's a long one, and I just absolutely love the ideas and concepts behind it. This is now two masterful books I've read by Robert Jackson Bennett, and he's fast becoming someone I'm going to have to seek out when his next books come out right away. Find a copy of this book and read it, you absolutely won't be let down.
Profile Image for Gatorman.
579 reviews64 followers
March 12, 2013
An amazing novel from Bennett, this complex story of aliens, the search for perfect happiness and sibling rivalry is reminiscent of American Gods in its writing and scope. The characters come to life in such a way that you begin to feel connections with them even though they are quite different from you and I. The writing is top-notch, proving Bennett to be a master of his craft and a name that should be known to all who love to be scared and enthralled at the same time. The ending is more than satisfying and I was a bit sad to leave the town of Wink and its little world when the last page finished. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Amy.
6 reviews25 followers
February 8, 2013
Mona Bright is no stranger to loss. She lost her mother at the tender age of five, and the trauma of that sudden, unexpected loss has come to define her life. Now she has lost her father, coming on the heels of the loss of her career in law enforcement, her husband, and her unborn daughter. When she finds she has inherited her mother's house in the small town of Wink, New Mexico, she sets out to claim what is left of her mother's legacy, to attempt to unearth anything she can find about this woman who is almost a stranger to her in an attempt to fill the gaping void inside. What she finds only raises more questions; questions which her new neighbors would much prefer remained buried, no matter what the cost. In what turns out to be the most critically important investigation she has ever faced, Mona soon learns she still has something left to lose after all- her sanity...and her life.

"...it is possible for something to enter your world that is so vast, so terrible, so foreign, that you cannot coexist with it: you must, in some way or another, vacate the premises, give up your seat. Merely knowing that this thing exists pulls the supports out from everything you know and trust: the established world falls around you like a circus tent whose center pole is cut.
And you must go with it. You must get out. You have to get out."

In American Elsewhere, Robert Jackson Bennet has created a twisty-turny thrill ride of a supernatural novel which blends elements of science fiction, mystery, and horror. As in his previous works, this novel reveals the influence of modern horror authors like Stephen King; this particular work is also heavily flavored with echoes of H.P. Lovecraft. Fans of either should enjoy this novel.

Bennett's pacing is outstanding. He demonstrates a strong understanding of how to play to today's short attention span audience, and despite the fact that this novel has 662 pages, it does not feel nearly that long. It is broken into short chapters with rotating points of view, each of which served to escalate the ratcheting tension throughout the book. I did not feel at any point that I was bored or that there was a lull that I would have to get through in order to find out what was going to happen. Bennet keeps you on an edge-of-your-seat knife blade of tension and doesn't let you go until the very end.

It could be said that we don't get to develop as much closeness with Mona, our central protagonist, as we might have. However, I feel that this is at least partially a function of who she is as a character. She has been driven by and defined by a sense of emptiness inside since her mother's death. She goes to great lengths to keep others at a safe distance because she has never resolved the issues brought about by that trauma. She feels hollow inside, as is evidenced in a particularly disturbing dream sequence. It is little wonder she has less to offer us in terms of intimacy than perhaps another protagonist might; after all, she has less to offer to herself. When viewed in this light, I do not feel that Mona's weakness detracts from the experience of the novel in a significant way. Certainly, many of his characters are fascinating and leave you wanting to know more as details about them are gradually revealed throughout the story. Perhaps characterization is an area for Mr. Bennet to explore further in his future works.

Ideas and imagination, on the other hand, are in abundant evidence. Bennet handles the horror with a deft touch, getting under our skin and leaving us profoundly grateful that this is, after all, merely fiction. There are several unexpected twists, some of which may leave you sympathizing with some of the very things which initially horrified you. The atmosphere is painted for us with skillful brush strokes and excellent attention to detail. Bennett's writing is strong and technically proficient, something which is all too rare these days. Despite the fact that the copy I read was an Advanced Reader's Edition, there were only a small handful of errors, which will likely be corrected.

Overall, this book was an absolute delight to read. The story will continue to haunt you even after you have finished the book. I highly recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid of being spooked...it is the perfect book to read under the covers with a flashlight (after you have checked under your bed, of course) and should serve to keep you up well past your bedtime, just like it did me.

Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews412 followers
November 24, 2015
I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a very long time. This was like cuddling up twenty (odd) years ago with the latest Stephen King or Clive Barker - back when they wrote enormous doorstoppers which were nonetheless unputdownable from start to finish. I felt somewhat nostalgic all the way through.

There is a lot to be said for this book - great writing, original plot, plenty of creepy stuff, good humour - but I think it's the central premise that really stands out for me. At its core, this book is about what people are prepared to trade for the "perfect life", and just what is a "perfect life" anyway?

For the residents of Wink, a small unknown town in New Mexico, everyone owns a perfect home down to the always perfectly green lawn, drives a perfect car, has perfectly behaved children, men do men things, women do women things and nobody ever gets a divorce. It's like an eternal rerun of Leave it to Beaver. There are just a couple of conditions - don't leave town, don't go near the woods, and don't go outside out at night. In fact, don't even look outside at night. Oh, and sometimes, you may be required to make an "arrangement" with the town's "other residents". The ones you definitely don't talk about.

The main protagonist, Mona, represents none of these things - least of all to herself. She has had a hard life to the extent that she has stopped trying to have any life at all. She has been adrift for a long time before she hits Wink. For Mona, what she's about to learn about her own past in Wink might be too monstrous for her to bear.

'..she is beginning to understand that all information.. is really just a means of establishing perspective: we know what green is only because we have blue to compare it to, just as we can understand three because we can match it up with two and see there is one more. The approximate qualities, behaviour and pattern of any witnessable occurrence are determined only by how it is like or unlike its neighbours; we know a thing only to the degree that we know what it is next to.

And what Mona just experienced for that one awful, endless, titubant moment neighbours nothing at all. She has nothing to compare it to. All her many frames of reference, which were so carefully, thoughtlessly constructed during all of her life, and which she always assumed to be as solid and undeniable as the very earth, have been proven to be tottering, fragile little popsicle-stick structures, vulnerable to a breeze or a shift in the carpet.

Her faculties struggle under the weight of this revelation. It is too much. Her mind wishes to throw its hands up and quit.

But she will not let it. She rallies, coughs, and says, "What.. what the fuck?"'

Bennett's writing is fantastic, and his style of horror definitely contains traces of Lovecraft, in that there are things so terrible that the mind cannot comprehend of them - and this is the source of all really great horror in my opinion.

Displaying 1 - 30 of 986 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.