Review written by Jess Peacock
Approximately one hundred pages into the latest novel from A. Lee Martinez, Vom the Hungering, an ancient singular entity who, as the name implies, loves to eat…anything, explains to the protagonist Diana, “If you want everything to make sense, you’re only going to be continually disappointed.” And therein lies the truth and beauty of not only Chasing the Moon, it is also a purposeful declaration that firmly bolts down the nexus of the unknowable yet oddly accessible universe which Martinez has built into his wildly eccentric overall body of work.
Past reviews of works from Martinez such as Monster and Divine Misfortune accuse the author, albeit in a positive tone, of being light and breezy, nothing more than simple summer reading for the beach. And while the author’s prose does indeed move along at an exciting and easy to read clip, Martinez is dealing with cosmological and theological concepts that should give one pause, reflecting not only on our role within the universe, but upon the vast unanswerable questions of existence itself.
In Chasing the Moon, the reader is immediately and inexplicably thrust into a world where a gash in the universe results in the emergence of a bizarre amalgam of monsters and extra-dimensional entities supervised, moderated, and maintained by various tenants at a not-so-typical apartment complex. Diana, being the latest occupant of Apartment Number Five, is tasked with administering the control and care of the previously mentioned Vom the Hungering until the creature either eats her, or she goes mad from an eternity of multiverse nanny duty.
Toss into the mix a floating, all destroying tentacled eye, the reintegration of a god-like entity with his fractured greater eldritch self who is tirelessly pursuing the moon in order to devour it (which would result in the meltdown of our existence, of course), innumerable alternate realities, a mind reading landlord, disembodied voices that spoil movie endings, and you have just the slightest hint of the Lovecraft meets Christopher Moore genius of Chasing the Moon.
In the absolute best sense, Martinez is the ideological love child of Stephen Hawking and Douglas Adams, with the literary dynamism of a Duane Swierczynski tossed in for good measure. While a fast-paced, witty, and altogether enjoyable read, Martinez also forces the reader (directly or indirectly) to contemplate the nature and durability of the cosmos, best illustrated when Diana is confronted with the destruction of the human race at the hands of an all powerful and eternal being. The god in question asks her, “If you stepped in an anthill and someone told you not to move your foot for fear of stepping on any more ants, would you do it? Why is your convenience worth a million ants, but mine isn’t worth a billion humans?”
Aside from the existential metaphysics wormholing through his latest novel, Martinez succeeds in populating Chasing the Moon with characters (both human and not) who basically want the same thing: a place to belong. Strip away the giant bugs, the uncontrollable spawning, and the devolution of the human race, and what you might be left with is the simple truth that we all just want to be loved. And how much it hurts when that love leaves.