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The Gopher King

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A suicidal former platoon sergeant, sole survivor of a Vietnam War jungle ambush, is haunted by what he perceives as his cowardly past.

Debilitated by guilt and mourning the death of his wife, small town newspaper publisher Stan Przewalski lives in a PTSD-fueled world where it is impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy.

Returning from a Vietnam sightseeing tour, his suppressed memories resurface with a vengeance as he deals with a murder and a raging wildfire that threatens to destroy his home town of Bull River Falls, Colorado.

And then one night this overly medicated vet meets a magical creature who wears paratrooper boots and rock band tee shirts and commands a subterranean army that believes Stan is the answer to their fight against unscrupulous real estate developers.

While they sabotage cell phone towers and government buildings, these supernatural friends provide an unlikely path to Stan’s redemption.

What could possibly go wrong?

323 pages, Paperback

First published November 12, 2020

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About the author

Gojan Nikolich

2 books51 followers
Gojan Nikolich is a former Chicago newspaper reporter, editor and public relations agency executive.

He graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from DePaul University, served as a decorated U.S. Army sergeant with both the 2nd and 4th Infantry divisions and has worked as a journalist in Korea and Japan.

He lives with his family in Colorado, where he and his wife once owned a weekly newspaper.

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5 stars
35 (56%)
4 stars
17 (27%)
3 stars
7 (11%)
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2 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 2 books107 followers
December 6, 2020
The Gopher King by Gojan Nikolich is not quite Alice going down the rabbit hole chasing the White Rabbit, but a few chapters into the book and you might think … it was Coraline going down a gopher hole with an M16 on full auto and a K-Bar in her teeth. The story centers around Stan Przewalski, a weekly newspaper publisher in the town of Bull River Falls, Colorado. Stan suffers from a severe form of PTSD and Nikolich paints a verbal portrait of PTSD suitable for hanging in any VA Hospital in America.

Stan, like the majority of vets who experience combat, comes home with the demons of war firmly in control of his life. Stan, like many vets, becomes dependent on therapy and pills to keep his demons in check. The valid process of healing for Stan presents itself in the form of an anthropomorphic gopher, but not just any gopher. He is The Gopher King. Stan and the Gopher King, appropriately named Chaz, embark on an odyssey of mutual self-exploration. Chaz is an anthropomorphic literary device used effectively by Nikolich to probe the depth of Stan’s problems and systematically harness the demons unleashed by Stan’s PTSD.

On a sightseeing trip to Vietnam, Stan realizes that he cannot be redeemed. That facing his fears and the hidden places in mind is true bravery. That all the time he allowed himself to suffer at the hands of his demons, were really opportunities to face his fears. Nikolich really plumbs the depths of PTSD through the magical world that Stan enters. A world full of camouflaged gophers toting M 16’s and fighting to save their homeland. It’s a world full of misunderstanding, meaninglessness, pompous characters, reminiscences without purpose, and is further full of characters that make absolutely no sense and are based on vanity cluelessness.

The residents of Chaz and Stan’s world mainly just want to get by and survive and maybe have a good time. Their world isn't actually that much different from the real world. The real world may be less exaggerated in its arbitrary rules and adult nonsense, crookedness, cowardice, and sordidness. Still, it has such traits in equal measure, and in many ways, the cruelty of the real world is more incredible. Nikolich has an indescribable writing style that drew me in immediately. To the extent that a good novel entertains and enlightens, The Gopher King masterfully achieves both goals.

His portrayal of characters is most realistically accomplished. The humor included, and the story provides, often unwanted memories for the initiated, but of tremendous educational value for the uninitiated, as related to PTSD. Nikolich ticked all the necessary boxes for me: 1) good story, 2) entertaining and creative descriptions, and 3) mesmerizing dialogue. I highly recommend putting a velveteen gopher on the desk of every VA shrink and The Gopher King on your reading list.
Profile Image for Kammy.
159 reviews9 followers
January 29, 2021
Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy of This book via netgalley!

A man who brings home the Vietnam war due to the atrocities that he witnessed there. a man who struggles with his hallucinations while struggling to preserve his current life. A different and fascinating book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,134 reviews192 followers
February 19, 2022
Channelling Lewis Carroll and Jonathan Swift.....

Still battling to escape from guilt and PTSD thanks to the Vietnam war, Stan falls down a rabbit hole, or rather a gopher hole and embarks on a psychedelic journey taking us all over the place. Whilst letting this fantastical world play out his past comes more into focus. Moreover actions become so much clearer when seen through the lens of that pretty blue pill.

Whilst enjoying the writing, I found myself wishing for it to be shorter, would have been a tighter gem then.

An ARC gently given by author/publisher via Netgalley
Profile Image for Kammy.
159 reviews9 followers
January 29, 2021
Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy of This book via netgalley!

A man who brings home the Vietnam war due to the atrocities that he witnessed there. a man who struggles with his hallucinations while struggling to preserve his current life. A different and fascinating book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Author 4 books73 followers
November 16, 2020
In “The Gopher King,” Author Gojan Nikolich takes the reader on a beautifully written journey, juxtaposing captivating realism and fantasy. It’s Platoon meets Alice in Wonderland.

Veteran Stan Przewalski suffers from debilitating PTSD after a traumatic incident during the Vietnam War, and his condition intensifies after his wife’s death. As the editor of a small-town newspaper, Stan covers a young woman’s murder and the ongoing battle between developers and townsfolk. He controls his PTSD and depression with medication, and then a magical gopher king leads an army into the fray, turning Stan’s world upside down.

Nikolich brings his Colorado setting to life with crisp, flowing prose reminiscent of Cormack McCarthy. Authentic and textured descriptions grab the reader from the opening pages and don’t let go. In flashbacks, he captures the essence of the Vietnam war through visceral and profound imagery. His detail is authentic and engaging. The reader can smell the rotting meat, see the buzzing flies, and feel the jungle dampness inside their fatigues.

Nikolich shares his unique voice, alternately morose, sarcastic, and whimsical. “The Gopher King” is beautiful, atmospheric writing full of history. It’s an engaging tale of regret, remorse, and redemption.
Profile Image for Jean Roberts.
Author 12 books131 followers
September 17, 2020
Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a hard book to describe. Take a murder, a forest fire, a Vietnam Vet haunted by the past, an army of combat-ready gophers led by a charismatic leader, add a bottle of little 'blue pills' and shake well. There you have it, think Animal Farm meets The Rats of NIMH and add bit of Hamburger Hill/Good Morning Vietnam. This book is quite a ride.

The Characters: Stan is a haunted man. After a failed suicide attempt and a misguided trip to Vietnam, he is tormented by his memories of his two tours during the ill-fated war. He bears a heavy burden of guilt over the death of his platoon. He is so well drawn you can feel his pain, his regrets and his will to live as it ebbs away. His life is joyless and he exists in a drug numbing fog of depression. I really wanted to put my arms around him and give him a hug. Chaz, the gopher king is Stan's opposite. He takes great pleasure in life, he is engaging, funny, outrageous, intellectually curious, he wallows in all that money can buy or he can steal. And yes, he really is a gopher and yes, I found him totally believable.

The Writing: The book is well edited and well written. The pace is steady, told in first person, narrated by Stan, who may or may not be reliable. The plot is dense with lots of subplots, twist and turns. I found it very engaging and was sucked into the story right away. Laced with black humor you almost, but not quite, forget the deeper meanings threaded through the narrative. Never sure if the gophers are the workings of a broken mind, hallucinations run amok or actually real, I was absorbed by the prose. Stan's battle with PTSD, grief from the loss of his wife, the destructive nature of land development and the raw power of fire all intertwine into a thoughtful, entertaining tale.

You will never look a Milk Duds the same.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book for people who enjoy a deep dive into the human psyche and can appreciate a dark sense of humor.

I rate this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars
Profile Image for Sublime Book Review.
155 reviews5 followers
September 2, 2020
Overall Rating = 4.75

Storyline & Concept = 5

Writing & Delivery = 4.75

Editorial = 4.5

In The Gopher King, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD and is mourning the death of his wife, reacts to over-medication and other triggers in the form of a murder and wildfires in his Colorado hometown. While he is struggling to distinguish reality from fantasy, he develops a relationship with a supernatural rodent that commands his own army and teams up with Stan to fight a real estate developer.

The Gopher King is billed as a dark comedy, and as I began to read, I was immediately entranced by the author’s writing skills, but I found myself double-checking the title. The darkness I could understand, but I didn’t see the humor. A few more pages into the book, I laughed out loud, and it suddenly made sense. The overall theme of the novel is dark, intense, and, at times, gruesome. The protagonist, Stan Przewalski, has suffered, and continues to suffer, from his experiences in Vietnam and as the result of the death of his wife. He is ridden with guilt and has suicidal tendencies. Thus, the darkness. The comedy comes in the form of the gopher, his followers, and Stan’s interactions with them. This is hilarious. It requires a sense of humor that is capable of suspending reality, but the result is more than worthwhile. The writing is excellent, the descriptions are superbly well-drawn, and the pace is riveting. A must-read!

Sublime Line: “This impressive debut novel is a skillfully-written and original page-turner that will take you on unforgettable adventures.”
Profile Image for Priya.
391 reviews14 followers
September 27, 2020
"It would be nice to live two lives, one for practice and the next to finally get things right".

Stan is a Vietnam Veteran with PTSD and he hallucinates so much. He is the only reporter and publisher of the Bull River Falls Beacon-News. When he embarks on a trip against the advice of the doctor he accidentally hits a prairie dog which he takes home and saves its life. He is surprised to know that the prairie dog is actually a talking gopher, his name being Chaz who has the ability to even miniaturize everything including humans.

The author relates the horrors of the Vietnam war to the gopher army's struggle for survival and to regain its homeland. This story is filled with giggles throughout the book. The author has done a great job in depicting the characters and narration the story in a captivating way.

I couldn't keep the book aside even for a minute. Such a captivating story and I loved the talking gopher Chaz. And its no where possible to say this is the debut novel of the author. The language used in simple and easy to grasp.

I liked the book and I definitely recommend it to everyone.

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. The above is my genuine opinion of what I felt after reading the book.
Profile Image for Steve Essick.
135 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2020
Easily one of the most original (& one of the most outrageous) books I’ve read in years . Think Kurt Vonnegut meets Hunter S. Thompson with George Orwell thrown in for good measure and you get some idea of where The Gopher King is coming from. It’s hypnotic, hallucinatory, horrifying, and utterly hysterical . This book has classic written on every page. I have just one word for you if you choose to pass it up - Chickenshit !
1 review
August 29, 2020
Great Read - Hard To Put Down!
Loved the colorful descriptions - felt like I was right there with the main character/narrator, battling ghosts of the past and wildfires, and solving small town mysteries. So many layers to this story, definitely worth unraveling them.
Profile Image for Ted Myers.
Author 6 books40 followers
August 5, 2021
With artful prose, Nikolch gives us a wholly believable slice of the Vietnam war and severe PTSD blended with an entirely fantastical relationship with a talking gopher with magical powers. Highly recommended.
Author 4 books27 followers
April 2, 2021
A mind bending, quirky and unusual read. This is something right up my alley. I appreciate when an author can take a piece of history and make it their own(especially when its this absurd!).
Profile Image for Gregg Sapp.
Author 19 books19 followers
January 2, 2021
There is a distinguished canon of Vietnam war novels. Some are brutally realistic, others stray into surreal territory, and many integrate satire into their narrative. The Gopher King by Gojan Nikolich is unique in the genre, combining all those styles, while adding elements of comic absurdity. Mix in a dash of suspense, a pinch of magical realism, and a dollop of murder mystery, and the result is an ambitious and entertaining, albeit somewhat fractured novel.

Prone to nightmares and hallucinations, as well as dependent on a pharmacopeia of controlled substances, Vietnam veteran Stan Przewalski is the epitome of an unreliable narrator. Ironically, as the owner, publisher, editor, and star reporter for the Bull River Falls [Colorado] Beacon News, Stan also markets in facts. Along with Stan, readers are challenged to separate reality from fantasy.

The novel opens with double tragedy—a murdered woman is found by the river, and a wildfire on Bellyache Mountain threatens the town of Bull River Falls. Stan observes, “There was a sense that nothing knew its place anymore. As if the mountains were home to something that had not been foretold.”

While visiting his psychiatrist at the Denver VA hospital, Stan picks up a Vietnam travel brochure in the hospital lobby. Upon an impulse, Stan books a whirlwind trip to Vietnam. “It seemed like a good idea. It could help explain myself to me.” In three frantic, drug addled days, Stan confronts painful memories of the war and his guilt at being the sole survivor of an enemy ambush.

So far, the novel’s tone is grim and sardonic. Everything changes in Chapter Nine, when, back in Bull River Falls, Stan is driving in the rain and hits a prairie dog on the old state highway. He stops and, “for reasons I’ll never understand I took him home.” Stan tends to the stricken rodent, and all at once the novel digresses into unmitigated weirdness. The animal speaks:

“Nineteen sixty-five, The Strangeloves. Number one song on the charts that year,” he said in a helium induced voice. “They beat out the Dave Clark Five.”

So, meet Chaz, the Gopher King. In addition to possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock and roll… “Chaz is a student of history. He can quote Aristophanes, the Jerry Seinfeld of ancient Greece, and knows in great detail the strategies of Wellington at Waterloo and he has the annoying habit of reciting long, punctuation-free passages from Infinite Jest, the novel by David Foster Wallace.”

From the moment Chaz appears, the narrative shifts from graphic to offbeat, with occasional digressions into Stan’s haunted psyche. As the gopher king, Chaz is the commander in chief of a vast rodent army determined to thwart development of a resort and golf course on pristine gopher habitat. Chaz also has the convenient power to shrink Stan to gopher size, the better for him to appreciate the culture threatened by human incursion, and even to participate in some of the gopher guerilla forays against the enemy. It is telling that the gopher squadron is equipped with Vietnam era arms.

Apart from the gopher battle scenes, some of Chaz’s antics seem superfluous. For example, there’s one sequence where Chaz and Stan vacation in a Malibu beach house. How much of these digressions are literary technique, and how much they are slapstick for the sake of cheap laughs is hard to ascertain. Also, the author often ends a chapter with a teaser or a cliffhanger, then starts the next chapter on an entirely different subject. Readers are left to piece together these interrupted sequences of events and their resolutions—if any—belatedly.

The tone shifts back to serious in the last few chapters, when the plot returns to the matters of the unsolved murder and the increasingly catastrophic wildfire.

The Gopher King is a ribald fantasy wrapped up in a psychological drama. As such, it can be appreciated at several levels. How much of Stan’s delusions do readers take literally? It is hard to say. But, in the words of the gopher king himself, “If you want to have a headache about the meaning of things, then you have to provide your own aspirin.”
Profile Image for Dan McDowell.
Author 4 books48 followers
September 14, 2020
Gojan Nikolich's power over prose allured me immediately in his less than quiet riot, The Gopher King, slated for release later this year. From the quiet mountains of Colorado to the bustling city streets of ‘Nam, Nikolich carries us on an unforgettable trek through challenging miles of struggle and excitement racing through the extravagant imagination of it’s hyper-medicated but likable and relatable protagonist, (a retired vet turned newspaper editor), Stan Przewalski, all the while entertaining us with healthy chuckles in the unhealthiest of moments as he is immersed in the world of Chaz, an intelligent gopher whose endowments are beyond measure. I think the thing that kept me coming back to this book was the unpredictable world of “Chaz,” The Gopher King and its associated complexities. The fluidity of the work and the author’s dexterity keeps its pacing on point and enjoyable cover to cover. It’s a book I’d read again to see what I missed the first time after some time away from it. The layering within is crafted with care and leaves me looking forward to future work from the author. I highly recommend it. Nikolich has carved out a unique niche with this tale and is certain to garner more interest as its gains notoriety.

Profile Image for BooksCoffee.
902 reviews
August 21, 2020
Nikolich’s fantastic debut not only showcases his powers of setting, character, and description but also shines light on his skill of giving a dark story a distinctive and humorous flair.

A wildfire and murder of a young woman in Bull River Falls flares the small-town newspaper publisher and a Vietnam veteran Stan Przewalski’s PTSD symptom further. Medications and the past trauma make it impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy. So, when Chaz, a quirky gopher, seeks Stan’s help in his fight against unscrupulous real estate developers, Stan sees his opportunity at redemption.

The chaos that seem to take hold of the plot— as the alternative narrative shuffles between the present and Stan’s flashbacks to the Vietnam combined with multiple plot threads driven by other characters — become all the more surreal as Stan’s frustrating but ultimately fantastic journey is powered by Chaz and Dora’s idiosyncrasies.

The fantastic sense of place, memorable characters, and a stylish prose makes this a page-turner.

Quirky and darkly humorous, this is literary fiction at best….
Profile Image for Happy Booker.
1,154 reviews66 followers
November 13, 2020
The Gopher King is a dark comedy story about Stan Przewalski. He lives in a PTSD fueled world where he remembers and daily punishes himself for what he perceives as a cowardly past.

Stan is a sole survivor from a mission he had during the Vietnam War. His wife has passed away. He is a former sergeant, and all the suppressed memories begin to resurface when he deals with a murder and a wildfire. That is when the supernatural story takes a peak and begins to take over the tale.
Stan befriends a few magical creatures, wearing boots and rock band tee shirts, which adds humor to the story. Not only does he have to deal with them destroying buildings, but he also learns a thing or two by making new friends.

The literature is action-packed but also is written in such a way that it makes the reader feel for the protagonist. Things may not have made much sense from an outsider, but you felt empathy for him through the protagonist’s eyes.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy stories and books that discuss matters regarding PTSD.
Profile Image for Michael Veletsky.
Author 4 books15 followers
April 29, 2021
What took the author so long to write his first book?
Perhaps, the answer is, you have to live long enough to write a book like The Gopher King.
Noone who never experienced Vietnam and didn't go through all of the after-war nightmares could possibly write this book.
It was so refreshing in a sea of paranormal literature to find a masterfully written novel full of a deep understanding of life, its tragedy, and comedy. We need more books like this, and I hope the author will not stop writing.
Profile Image for Alastair Luft.
Author 3 books24 followers
September 14, 2020
The Gopher King is a dark, hallucinatory tour-de-force, reminiscent at times of Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato. Highly imaginative and well-detailed, the author’s skilled use of humor successfully walks a delicate line between tragedy and comedy to lay bare the protagonist’s PTSD-fueled suffering and eventual redemption. Very much looking forward to more from Gojan Nikolich.
December 7, 2020
Who knew gophers could be so entertaining? Initially, I thought where is this going, but as I continued reading I became enthralled. It has it all. Humor, heartache, pathos... I thoroughly enjoyed this, thank you Mr. Nikolich !
Profile Image for Michael Hopkins.
Author 2 books12 followers
July 22, 2021
The full title of Gojan Nikolich’s recently released first-person narrative, told from the point of view of a traumatized Vietnam war veteran, is The Gopher King: A Dark Comedy. The “Dark Comedy” part of the title had me prepared for something along the lines of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, one of my favorite novels. Yet early on, it becomes clear that the narrator suffers from PTSD and has inexplicably survived a sincere (if thwarted) suicide attempt. These things hardly pave the way for comedy, dark or otherwise, and I can’t say I chuckled nearly as much reading The Gopher King as I did when I read Catch-22, another bizarre and comedic take on the horrors of war. But where Catch-22 takes a broader view of the insanity of war, The Gopher King puts it all in the head of one man – the narrator, Stan Przewalski, a Vietnam veteran whose wartime experiences have left him as emotionally unmoored as a human being can be. By comparison, Stan is more Captain Willard from Apocalypse Now! than Catch-22’s Captain Yossarian, albeit a far more likeable version.

There is a lot going on in this novel – enough that every reader can probably walk away with a different take on it. For me it is the story of a man who wrestles with self-recrimination so intense that he wants to die (and tries to), but who also has within him a desperate need to survive, a thing he cannot do without a serious encounter with redemption for what he has willingly and unwillingly done as a soldier. PTSD has become hardwired into the man, ever-present and inescapable even decades beyond the war that scarred him and despite enough medication to take down a charging elephant.

Stan is the owner and editor of the local newspaper in a rural Colorado town he calls home. He is also the paper’s photographer and chief reporter. Symbolic of Stan’s inability to escape the past is his insistence on putting the paper together using an ancient linotype machine that sets lines of text with molten metal. He uses real film and a darkroom, and he pastes the paper together the old-fashioned way, eschewing the simplicity and less painful efficiency of modern technology.

Frequent trips to the VA hospital leave Stan amply supplied with medications meant to tamp down the worst effects of his PTSD and keep him from going completely haywire. But when his small town and the environs of Bellyache Mountain meet the intrusion of a modern resort development, pitted against the history and mores of a time-honored way of life, the world itself goes haywire, leaving Stan hopelessly caught between numbing the past with his VA prescriptions and trying to unravel a web of murder and arson. Struggling to emerge from the conflict is Stan, as a deeply wounded hero.

Nikolich is a masterful writer, so when he takes the reader into Stan Przewalski’s memories, he imparts a visceral sense of the imagery that has wrecked his main character’s mind. I can’t think of a character in any novel whose inner turmoil is so convincingly and compellingly portrayed. Something has to break. And it does, with the break coming in the form of an impossible community of sentient prairie dogs, with their warlike leader Chaz, the Gopher King himself, taking over large chunks of Stan’s world, even amidst the chaos taking place on Bellyache Mountain.

I won’t give away the surprises that the Gopher King brings into Stan’s life because there’s too much fun in the discovery. But the encounters clearly come from that part of Stan that wants to live, that needs redemption to come in the form of living, not dying. More than anything, Stan needs to find a way to forgive himself.

Stan’s adventures with the prairie dogs, alternatively labeled gophers and even rats by Stan, lure him from the downward spiral that can only lead to a self-destructive end. If you believe it is all in Stan’s mind, then you have a tale of a desperate man losing his sanity to find it. If you believe the Gopher King’s prairie dogs are real, you’ll wish there were more around like them. We could all use the distraction.

Either way, The Gopher King is a fine novel – one that begs to be read and then re-read to peel back the layers you probably missed the first go around.
Profile Image for Sasha Lauren.
Author 1 book37 followers
March 4, 2021
In The Gopher King, Gojan takes us on a hysterical, astute, moving, dark, and hallucinatory ride as we meet Stan Przewalski, a former sargent, Stan without a plan, who is dealing with guilt as a sole survivor from a bloody Vietnam war action. He struggles to forgive himself in the midst of PTSD flashbacks, mourning the death of his wife, and suffering bad, bizarre effects from being medicated on little blue psych drugs. He has his plate full with "A failed hanging, My badly advised return to Vietnam. The Martain cow. A killer loose in town and a raging wildfire. And now a talking gopher, all in the same, strange summer."

Chaz, "my middle name is trouble," the talking gopher, is a class, crass act, decked out in tee shirts of different rock stars from back in the day. "There's nothing more unpredictable than a prairie dog on a sugar high. "I reminded Dr. Sheinkenstein that I had every reason in the world to invent things -- indeed entire worlds, in order to keep my brain busy so as to harmlessly negotiate each day. Kiss my ass, I thought. Children do this all the time."

Gojan's writing is bold, memorable, and quotable ~

"And that bullshit about grace under fire; there was no such thing."

"Bravery was what you did when nobody was watching. If they were watching it became spoiled and untrue."

"I walked on with my aching knees and wondered how it would be nice to have two lives to live, one for practice and the next to finally get things right. Seems like we'd all do a lot less damage to each other if it were so."

"We should all be suspicious of charisma."


And original, inventive, and funny as hell. Here he describes the gopher king and his wife ~

She turned to me, did a little curtsy, and said, "How do I look?" She looked like a small hairy werewolf hooker just released from a 19th century French prison, "You look marvelous," I said and blew her a kiss. ... "He looked like a crazed, earless Rastafarian Easter Bunny."

Nikolich's writing, mind-bending, real, and biting, mesmerized me; his style, though totally original, reminds me of Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, and Hunter Thompson all rolled into one. Brilliant work.
Profile Image for Anjana.
1,784 reviews40 followers
June 14, 2021
It took me a while to get into the story, be it the plot or the concept. The writing was straightforward and humorous at times but also emotional, which helped ease me into this rather extraordinary blend of fantasy and reality.
It is not fantasy in the traditional sense of fiction; there is no unique worldbuilding with an intricate power dynamic. It is almost the ramblings of a mind under too much emotional stress and prescription drugs to battle PTSD. I say almost because the distinction is blurred: We have evidence of other people also seeing the 'delusions' of the main characters or at least the aftermath. Until the end of the book, I was torn about making up my mind about the context but finally decided I did not have to be a hundred per cent sure of anything!
Our lead protagonist is a grizzled ex-Vietnam vet who works in a small town for the local newspaper. He makes a trip to Vietnam at the beginning of the book, and we continue to get flashes of his time in the army and his painful, conflicted memories from that time. This provides fuel to his ongoing disconnect from the world around him.
We have a murder mystery, a corporate takeover and an arsonist thrown into the mix. The magical gophers play a role in almost all the branches of the main story. We get a form of closure towards the end of the book, which made me like the book more than I thought I would going in. If the book was shorter, even by a little bit (given the weight of the content), I would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, I had to take many breaks in order to finish it.
It is a complicated insight into a troubled mind of an essentially good person, and I would still recommend it to anyone who liked either my review of the blurb!
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.
Profile Image for MLMOPINIONS.
63 reviews25 followers
January 26, 2021

The Gopher King is one of the most original and engaging storylines that I have read in a long time. It is intense, and it delves deep into the psyche of the human mind. There is also a level of comedy that provides relief from the darkness that consumes Stan.

Stan was a platoon sergeant in the Vietnam War. He is the only survivor in his platoon to survive the jungle ambush of Vietnam. Add that with PTSD and his wife’s death, and you get a half-crazed, depressed, and suicidal man walking around. Due to the medications or maybe other traumatic events in his past, Stan creates this fantasy in his head.

Chaz, the Gopher King, is born. Chaz and his army of gophers want to save the land, their home, from real estate developers. Stans offers to help, and it gives him a sense of purpose and a way to escape reality. Chaz is the comedy, while Stan is the dark. Together they make a beautiful duo who will have you laughing out loud and crying hard on the inside.

This book took me on an emotional roller-coaster, and I feel for Stan. He lost everything that mattered most from his brothers in the war and his wife; it’s heartbreaking. If you want to see how some people cope with grief, depression, survivors’ guilt, and hallucinations from medications, then give this book a go. You will not regret it.
Profile Image for Greg Hoover.
9 reviews2 followers
March 11, 2021
Gojan Nikolich’s novel, The Gopher King, brings together several diverse ingredients to make a tasty literary stew.
Stan Przewalski, the protagonist of the novel, has had it rough. He’s a Vietnam veteran, and he has the emotional scars to prove it. But despite all this, you will find genuine humor and fantasy elements in this ambitious novel.
In addition to tortured memories, depression, and attempted suicide, you’ll find magical creatures to lift your spirits. For instance, Chaz, the gopher king, is an unforgettable character. And Chaz’s ability to shrink Stan to his own size is a very effective literary device, and a lot of fun to boot.
Equal parts psychodrama and pure creativity, read this one for its rich complexity. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll read it again.
Profile Image for Kimberly Tilley.
Author 4 books77 followers
August 14, 2020
The Gopher King, by Gojan Nikolich, is an interesting story. However, as a reader, it was the way the story was told that intrigued me. The author has a very original, gritty style. I don’t have much common with the protagonist, but seeing through the world through his eyes caused me to feel a lot of empathy for him and I really cared what became of him.
Five stars and I will be keeping an eye out for future books by Gojan Nikolich. I received an advanced copy of this book but it did not influence my review.
Profile Image for Tony Duxbury.
Author 9 books66 followers
October 5, 2021
A Vietnam war veteran suffering from PTSD for forty years slips into a fantasy world to deal with his everyday problems. He believes himself to be a coward after his squad is ambushed and he is the only survivor. Suicide is a tempting option, but events such as murder and forest fires threaten the small mountain town where he lives. These and his friendship with the Gopher King eventually break his reliance on medication. Loved the main character and his imaginary friend. Recommended reading.
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431 reviews
June 11, 2022
A story of the demons our veterans have to go through after a war that made him an enemy of his own country. The problems of PTSD and an attempted suicide. Some mystery, dark comedy, well written story by an author who understands the horrors our vets go through.

I received a free copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.
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