The Gopher King

A Dark Comedy

Fiction - Military
326 Pages
Reviewed on 07/24/2020
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Author Biography

Gojan Nikolich is a former Chicago newspaper reporter, editor and public relations agency executive. He graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from DePaul University, served as a decorated U.S. Army sergeant with both the 2nd and 4th Infantry divisions and worked as a journalist in Korea and Japan. He lives with his family in Colorado, where he and his wife once owned a weekly newspaper.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Gopher King: A Dark Comedy is a work of fiction in the surrealism, military fiction, and psychological drama sub-genres, and was penned by author Gojan Nikolich. Exploring the workings of the mind of the Vietnam veteran, the work does contain violence appropriate to wartime experiences and the use of explicit language. Quirky, comedic, and psychologically dark, the plot revolves around protagonist Stan Przewalski, whose mind and life spiral rapidly out of control through grief and flashbacks of war. So when he meets an army of magical creatures who tell him he must lead them to victory, Stan is up for the task and the many strange adventures and dangers it may bring.

Author Gojan Nikolich has crafted a work of surreal fantasy and magical realism which will have readers as deeply lost in its ethereal dark comedy as the protagonist himself. I found the work to be highly compelling and engaging, not just because of the inventive quality of the storytelling, but because of the development of Stan’s psyche and the empathy we feel for him throughout his strange journey. The book offers many different levels of quirky humor, realistic pain and suffering, and outright rebellious adventure, but it is the deep emotional quality of Stan’s mental state which holds it together and delivers an ultimately brilliant work of introspective psychological fiction. Overall, I would highly recommend The Gopher King to all types of readers for its conceptual brilliance, engaging prose and accomplished writing, and narrative style.

Joel R. Dennstedt

Beyond the obvious category of literary fiction to which The Gopher King by Gojan Nikolich belongs, this profoundly literate work is best described using pithy, deeply meaningful, single adjectives. Hallucinogenic. Meditative. Depressing. Intelligent. Poetic. Layered. And, most certainly, literate. If one wishes to clarify these descriptions further, making them more accurate and precise, he need only precede them with appropriate qualifiers. Highly. Deeply. Profoundly. Then, to amplify the meaning of this highly layered book, he might listen carefully to the words of its profoundly, highly troubled narrator: "I … wondered how it would be nice to have two lives to live, one for practice and the next to finally get things right.”

The plot of The Gopher King by Gojan Nikolich is difficult to convey. I shall give it my best shot. But, advance warning: Once you buy into the hallucination, it is too late to remain objective. A Vietnam vet with an impossible last name lives out his later years as the self-ordained news editor in a local - impossibly local – prairie town agonizing its way toward suburban blight. To say the man has PTSD, or to say he is simply troubled or plagued with demons, is to underestimate his own evaluation: “It was so much more than simple, explainable sorrow.” He self-medicates. A lot. He hallucinates. A lot. And, lest you think this troubled man is the main protagonist in this multi-leveled tale, the title should alert you. The Gopher King (literally) appears (literally, I think.) A prairie dog named Chaz. El Jefe de los Excavadores. What happens between these two struggling souls would be ruined by further explication. Just know, the writing alone will leave you breathless.

Rabia Tanveer

The Gopher King: A Dark Comedy by Gojan Nikolich is a military novel packed with action and a mystery that is bound to baffle your mind. Stan Przewalski is not the average joe on a sightseeing trip to Vietnam as a break from his demanding job. He is a newspaper publisher; a Vietnam War veteran and he has horror stories to tell about his time during the war. Still dealing with the loss of his wife and his ever-active PTSD, he is not ready for whatever demons this new trip awakens in his mind. On top of the wildlife fire that can destroy everything he holds dear, he also has to find out who killed a woman in his small town and deal with a magical being who believes Stan is the one who can save everyone from money-hungry real estate developers. But Stan relies heavily on his medications and he cannot decide if what he sees is real or not. His gut tells him something while his brain tells him something else. Stan has a choice to make and he needs to make it quickly.

The Gopher King is indeed a dark comedy, almost satire that allows readers to read between the lines and come to their own conclusions. The author sets the tone with the prologue and from there on, the author allows the reader to walk right beside Stan on his journey. The author uses the right words to draw the reader in. Gojan Nikolich entices the minds of readers with his unique descriptive style and powerful storytelling skills. The story is in the first-person narrative, which is very hard to pull off but somehow Nikolich did it. The mystery behind the murder and the fact that we don’t know our protagonist’s name until the end of chapter 8 draws attention. Stan’s internalization, his thought process, and his dedication to the cause he believed in are all traits and quirks that make him a well-rounded character. This is something special, a must-read novel for mystery enthusiasts!