Book review of Wormwood, Nevada
Recommended if you like
David Oppegaard
St. Martin's Press
Wormwood, Nevada

Reviewed by Joe Tackett


pon first setting eyes on “Wormwood, Nevada” by David Oppegaard, you might purse your lips, sniff at the 230 pages, and inwardly groan at the prospect of science fiction so outlandish and unbelievable you lose interest.  Thankfully, that is not the case. “Wormwood, Nevada” eases the reader into the world of science fiction through the eyes of a sedately satisfied twenty-something couple hailing from the prairies of the Midwest who set out for the hot and dusty mountains of Nevada to change their realities.  Meet Tyler Mayfield, a Midwestern substitute teacher with enough charm to win the hand of a former Nebraska beauty queen and sweet talk her into joining him in relocating to Wormwood, Nevada. Both Tyler and Anna Mayfield are desperate to escape the bored staleness of their lives in Nebraska and set off for the deserts of Nevada in hopes of finding meaning and a new future in the sleepy little town nestled at the foot of the red mountains.  They find both in spades.

Oppegaard excels in capturing the essence of small-town life and the oddities and tradition that so easily mix in communities partially isolated from the outside world.  Afternoon siestas and early happy hours are the norm for the easy going folks of Wormwood and the Mayfields settle right in, tequila and beer in hand and make to mixing in with their new neighbors. The tranquil normalcy of the town’s drunken boredom and routine is shattered by a meteorite landing smack dab in the middle of the sleepy little community. The whole town is affected one way or another by the space boulder’s crash. Finding itself the center of a news rush, the town fathers envision tourism dollars and a new boom not experienced since the gold rush of the 1850’s that culminated in the town’s founding.  But with the boom comes equal doses of gloom and doom and it’s not long before “The end is near” signs start cropping up and conspicuously dressed G-men appear on the scene with more than questions on their mind.

Educated and grounded in reason, Tyler and Anna struggle to come to grips with the emotional carnage the meteor’s impact left in its wake. Nightmarish visions seep into the sleep of Anna while Tyler’s own sudden bouts of alcohol-fueled insomnia lead him into encounters of a different kind.  Like a spider, the author spins a web of teasing threads, luring the reader into the plausibility of the subject of his prose: Is man alone? Do other forms of intelligent, refined beings exist within our galaxy and beyond, or are they already here, among us as they always have been? 

“Wormwood, Nevada” should appeal to those of you who like your science fiction plausibly wrapped up in humanity’s odyssey to find redemption in the otherworldly.  If that’s the case, by all means grab a copy of this novel for a quick, smooth read the next time you jump on a plane or are riding shotgun on a day trip across state.

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