Whom should I blame for my lack of enchantment with this book? I have to take the non-self-hating option. This book didn’t juice me because this book ain’t juicy. Bray tried to shovel all of extant Western lit into one book. It starts with Don Quixote (complete with mouthy Spanish-speaking sidekick), piles on some lotus eaters and whatnot from the Odyssey, borrows a man behind the curtain from the yellow brick road, and even makes a pit stop at the World Tree . On top of all that, I was clobbered with recurring motifs of Star Wars, Wiley Coyote’s eternal pursuit of the Roadrunner, Disney World, and MTV. If you took any 20-page excerpt, it’d seem clever, but put together it’s just a big ol’ mess of a mess.
I have only myself to blame for not putting the book down after Yggdrasil. I really really wanted to like this book because Libba Bray is so witty and the cover art is massively awesome (a cow! holding a garden gnome!). If Libba Bray were a stand-up comedian, I’d probably adore her. Even as I literally lost consciousness listening to this book, I tried to blame the audiobook production.
But after we (finally) reached the unsatisfying conclusion, Bookslut set me straight: Going Bovine is long and baggy, overtly preachy in parts, and fundamentally unsatisfying since the main character only has agency in dreams.
Basically, 16-year-old Cameron is an underachieving pothead, so it takes a while for people to notice that he’s got mad cow disease. He ends up in the hospital, where his fever dream takes him on an only-you-can-save-mankind adventure (75% of the book). In dreams, Cameron finds peace and wonder before he dies, even though he’s done fuck-all with his wisp of a life. Cameron’s mom teaches mythology and his dad teaches quantum physics, leading to a tiresome surplus of symbols in the trash heap of Cameron’s spongiform mind.
Yes, quantum physics. Sigh. Don Quixote, Wiley Coyote, Balder, the Wizard of Reckoning (wtf?), and company were not enough. We had to bring black holes, Schrodinger’s cat, and parallel universes into it. Ms. Bray, take a self-esteem seminar! You can write. You don’t need 5 million crutches.