Joshua Hale Fialkov has written some amazing downers with top-shelf skill and details that make the depressive content of his books impactful and lasting. Echoes is a spectacular example of how Fialkov uses details about real places to make his books about surreal/irreal and maybe unreal diseases and topics seem that much more tangible. Readers come away from Fialkov books wanting to read more but glad that there is no more to read.
Maybe I notice it more because I have intimate knowledge of some of the areas that Fialkov talks about in his books but he does a great job of building the world that his characters live in. Fialkov and I could be life twins of sorts – his first book, Elk’s Run was based in the area where he and I both grew up. Another of his books, Tumor was based in Los Angeles but more specifically North Hollywood, an area of LA where he and I both lived and Echoes comes back to an area near Pittsburgh that he and I know well.
Fialkov and I could be twins of sorts with the additional details that he and I both love comes and we both sport handsome beards but I don’t want to come off as too much of a stalker – that might sound too much like a book he’d write. What’s important though is that Fialkov’s use of areas that he knows allows hm to “write what he knows, have settings that he can easily describe which keeps him and the reader both grounded in reality. His use of reality does not force the reader to know/learn or understand more than the really important things, the characters.
Fialkov’s book topics are difficult and rarely heroic. Echoes deals with a man coming to grips with the loss of his father as he battles hallucinations brought on by an hereditary illness – then, he is suddenly confronted by a dark secret about his father that he may also have inherited. These are by no means easy subjects that have previously been covered in comic books but mood setting through details and strong character traits makes them compelling and forces the reader to be both empathetic to the story as well as sympathetic to the circumstances of the characters.
I look forward to whatever Fialkov writes next. He keeps me interested in more mainstream stuff stamped with his name, things like I, Vampire and The Last of the Greats but it is these especially well-crafted, honest, difficult and impactful books like Tumor and Echoes that keeps me buying books that he has touched.