By Gary K. Wolf
Back of the book copy:
“He played the game. Then the game played him. To the death.
“From Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit…
“Every morning Joyce Williams plays a game called LifeMaster. In one hour, LifeMaster takes him through his day. Joyce then goes out and lives exactly the day he’s played.
“Until the day his game cube gets destroyed.
“His life goes into default mode. LifeMaster plays the game. Joyce lives the life.
“Joyce expects life will get worse. Instead it gets better. Way better.
“He’s making more money than he can spend. He’s hanging out with his favorite sports hero. He has a gorgeous girlfriend. He partners up with Herculisa, a crime-fighting superheroine. He becomes Jayhawk, a superhero himself.
“Life is good! Life is perfect.
“Then LifeMaster changes from a game of life to a game of life and death!”
Have you ever read a book where you knew everything that was going to happen before it happened, where the book was completely predictable?
That is so not the case with Typical Day.
Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next, Gary took a hard left turn and went in a completely different direction than I expected. After about the fifth time, I quit trying to guess where the book was going. I was just along for the ride, and happy to be in the car.
Typical Day is the story of Joyce Williams, a terrified mouse of a man who is so afraid of not knowing what’s going to happen in his life that he is willing to live the same boring, computer-generated day over and over. It’s dull, it’s unrewarding, but it’s never a surprise. And for Joyce, that’s okay, as long as his life is safe and predictable.
And then he loses his cube, his key to playing the game of LifeMaster. He has to rely on the game itself to determine what his typical day will be like. At first, it’s great. He gets promoted at work, is assigned a fabulous new apartment, meets the girl of his dreams, and plays basketball with an all-star professional ball player — and wins.
Until one day when the game — or whoever is playing it — seems to get bored. As Joyce’s typical day becomes more and more bizarre and dangerous, Joyce wonders if the game could actually be trying to kill him.
Gary’s writing is that rare combination of absolutely fresh, unexpected plot lines coupled with amazing writing. He fills the book with all of those “elements of style” we’re tortured with middle-school English classes, yet he does it so well, you finally get why it’s so important in great writing. I especially loved the evocative imagery. (I talked about this in my blogpost, “Writer Wednesdays: Imagery Creates Images.”) He’s great at using words to create pictures in the reader’s mind, complete with all kinds of emotional baggage. I also loved his characters. You can’t pigeon-hole them — they aren’t good or bad, funny or serious, likable or unlikable. They’re more complex than that, like real people are.
Most of all, Gary creates amazing worlds. In The Late Great Show!, he imagined a world in which the Greek gods are real and are struggling to find their place in a modern world. In Typical Day, he again creates a unique world, one that feels comfortable and familiar — until we realize it isn’t at all comfortable or familiar. He’s just a master at world-building. And why should that surprise anyone with the guy who conceived the world of Toontown?