Friday, January 25, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Westlake Soul by Rio Youers (5/5)

By Jessica Veter

[See the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of the page for giveaway entry rules]

Westlake Soul’s life is on a trajectory of perfection. He’s young, good-looking and loves his girlfriend even more than he loves surfing. He has it all, until the one day he looks out over the Pacific Ocean and does not ask the right question. He survives his accident, but the five minutes his brain went without oxygen has flat-lined his cerebral cortex.

He has become a superhero.

Although in a vegetative state (don’t call him a ‘cabbage’), Westlake’s destroyed brain allows him to surf the cosmos. He can travel anywhere on earth or in space, communicate with animals (his dog Hub is truly his best friend), even challenge the laws of physics, but he cannot lift a finger for himself or tell his family he is aware. His battles with his arch nemesis, Dr. Quietus, go unmarked, and his family is beginning to question if this is the kind of life their son would want.

Pressed for time? Pressed for attention span? Pressed to fit all this text on your phone’s screen? Then take my advice: READ WESTLAKE SOUL and feel free to mosey along. If seeing the number of stars I have given this book isn’t enough to convince you, then by all means, continue.

Coming across this book when I did was some kind of karma. I had just had a conversation about confined characters and when they did (and did not) succeed as the protagonists of their stories. Then Rio Youers dropped this piece of magnificence into my hard drive and my side of the debate won hands-down. Here’s a protagonist who’s a vegetable, I kid you not, and the book’s written in the first person. How much more restricted can you get? Yet it succeeds. It succeeds in beauty, emotion and sheer edge-of-your seat suspense from page one until the LAST FLIPPING SENTENCE OF THE BOOK.

I am unworthy, Rio Youers. I am Salieri to your Mozart, pie shell to your apple filling, turkey to your delicious stuffing. Come to my house and let me feed you.

Westlake Soul is about love. Love touches every page, every word, but never once does it slip into that saccharine sentiment that looks like love but never comes close. I’m talking real love, the deep-emotion messy kind that lifts you up and makes you more than you ever imagined. This is the love that forces people to make very hard decisions, forces people to be understanding and allows forgiveness. It’s a book about healing, about growing up, about loving people not in spite of their flaws, but because of their flaws. Westlake Soul begins the book as a child, but he ends the book as a man.

It’s also a book that, about half way through, made me squirm uncomfortably, made me ask myself a question I did not want to contemplate, let alone answer. Frankly, Rio, I don’t know what I would do, and I know that’s a chicken-shit answer. Until I read your book, I thought I did. Now I have no bloody idea.

Honest, harrowing, lyrical and lovely, here’s five stars (plus some extras I had lying around looking for a home) and two boxes of tissues for Westlake Soul.

Rio Youers has drawn praise from some of the most noteworthy names in the speculative fiction genre. He is the author of two novellas, Mama Fish (Shroud Publishing) and Old Man Scratch (PS Publishing)—the latter earning him a British Fantasy Award nomination in 2010.

His novelette, This is the Summer of Love, was the title story of PS Publishing’s first new-look Postscripts anthology, a publication in which Rio has appeared three times. His short fiction has also been published by IDW Publishing, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Shroud Magazine.

Rio’s debut novel, End Times, was rereleased by PS Publishing in the autumn of 2010. His first short story collection, Dark Dreams, Pale Horses, will follow in 2011, with a short novel, Westlake Soul (ChiZine Publications), slated for release in the spring of 2012.  For more about Rio, visit him at


About the Reviewer:  Jessica Veter is a novelist raised in rural Ontario. Having escaped to Toronto, she spent the 90’s over-educating herself at York University and then the University of Toronto. Once she accepted that there were never going to be any job listings in The Globe and Mail headed “Medievalist Wanted”, Jessica went to Japan. There, she met her husband and they lived in England before returning to Canada with a son and a greyhound.  Now in rural Flamborough, Jessica and her husband raise 3 boys, 6 chickens and are owned by 1 dog. You are welcome to visit her at


The Giveaway:  This is the part you've all been waiting for, right?  Don't lie.  You've already hurt our feelings enough.  Just be honest about your book-grubbing nature and we'll be cool.  Capiche?  

Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk swag.  For one lucky winner Chizine is offering up your choice of one ebook from their extensive catalog.  Visit, have a poke around, and comment below to tell us what book you'd like to swipe for yourself.  Then sign up using the Rafflecopter widget and cross your fingers.  Good luck to you all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. What a unique sounding book Westlake Soul is. Wonderful review.

    1. It's a brave book, and intelligent and brave. A 'must-read'.

  2. Loved your review of Westlake Soul...I completely adored the book. I'd like to read some of ChiZine's other publications, maybe John Mantooth's Shoebox Train Wreck first off.

    1. I'm glad you liked my review. It was a joy to write it. I am very impressed with ChiZine's pub list; they are cutting edge.

  3. Was this book mentioned here on In My Mailbox? Ever since reading the description (here or somewhere) I was wondering about this book and I am SO EXCITED to hear it is so well done. I am going to have to check it out. It sounds kind of tough, but amazing. Wonderful review!

    1. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it. I didn't find it tough; heart-breaking, absolutely, but I came out of it feeling like I was more, not less. Please check it out, Elisa.

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