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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
In The Prince of Earth by Mike Robinson, we first meet Quincy Loverly in an internal crisis. Her fears cause her to cancel her day at work in a studio that produces video games around the “quest” scenario. Her emotional crisis is vague to the reader but powerful enough for Quincy to forget to pick up her son Andy on his third day of kindergarten. I was immediately curious about what is wrong with this woman who seems to have everything any woman would want yet who is disabled by what goes on sometimes in her head. Her problems have something to do with a hike she took when much younger up a mountain in Scotland. The plot of the book goes between her experiences on that climb and her current life, during which she has panic eruptions where unimaginable horrors occur; so unimaginable that they can only possibly occur in one’s mind. Nevertheless, these panic attacks are unraveling what should be an American woman’s idyllic life, domestic and professional. The question I kept asking as I read was, “What the hell is happening to poor Quincy?”
Mike Robinson’s storytelling skills are superb, mostly his poetic renderings of a particularly challenging but unnamed mental illness. At her first visit to a therapist, she says, “I feel as if someone is playing with my life.” Not only does she imagine horrific tortures from the Prince of Earth, a vision she has on the mountaintop, but memories of her own past are slipping away. She loses her family and the town where she grew up as if they never occurred. This phase of her illness was scarier for me than the horrendous physical torture she endures from the so-called Prince. Robinson’s book seems like an internal portrait of the onset of Alzheimer’s—memories and reality jumbled and slipping away. How horrible must that be? Robinson’s writing is exquisite in its ambiguity—like, perhaps, a long Wallace Stevens’ poem. It requires more than simply reading. It requires something even better; interpretation. It’s one of those wonderful works of art that demands you to meet the artist halfway. Yes, there’s mind-chilling horror here, but also, miraculously, a rare kind of beauty.