In Extremis

Fiction - Literary
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 05/05/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

In Extremis by Matt Duggan follows Jack against the backdrop of the aftermath of California wildfires and, eventually, the murder of his friend Billy Barber. Evacuated and sheltered by Dr. Jan Thomason, Jack reflects on Billy's illicit dealings, uncovering a substantial sum of money. We are then taken deeper into 1990s Los Angeles, walking, and sometimes stumbling, with Jack through events like the Rodney King beating and riots as he pursues his acting ambitions, forming connections and swimming against a tide of personal and societal challenges. Jack wades through seizures and shifting relationships, existential discussions, artistic pursuits, and the search for truth surrounding Billy's demise. As his world crumbles with betrayals and loss, Jack confronts his own identity and the uncertainties of life in a story packaged with themes of love, grief, music, and the passage of time.

In Extremis by Matt Duggan is an exceptional exploration of human connection set against the brutal competitiveness of the entertainment industry. Jack and all who move in his sphere, each of the diverse array of characters, and their own aspirations and moral quandaries, play out in fully fleshed-out recollections. The philosopher Nietzsche makes a cameo appearance and Jack discusses love and loneliness, and, in a blast from my childhood, I had to chuckle at my own memories of El Niño. Duggan certainly has a knack for 20th-century pop culture. With well-honed and introspective prose, Duggan captures the essence of life's uncertainties and the quest for meaning in a world filled with upheaval. In Extremis is not a fast-moving novel, and this is intentional. It is also important in a book that provokes thought and lingers in the mind after the final page, offering through Jack some raw insight into the human condition and the enduring power of resilience in the face of adversity. Very highly recommended.