Book Review : The Exploding Book by Mike Russell

The Exploding Book (Amazon Link)

Author : Mike Russell
Published By : StrangeBooks
Year Published : 2017
Genre / Tags : Experimental, Surreal, Fiction, Adult Fiction
Mood : Strange
Formats : Paperback, eBook
# of Pages : 274 pages (Paperback)


There is a book with the power to destroy any book different from itself. Do not fear. This is not that book. This is the story of that book. An explosion occurs in a library, destroying all the books except one: an untitled book whose author is unknown. Unless someone can prevent it, the untitled book will soon become the only book in existence. Mike Russell’s The Exploding Book is a unique, surreal novel. Filled with bizarre characters and fantastic imagery, The Exploding Book will take you on an extraordinary journey of cosmic proportions.


Content Warning – disturbing imagery, some sexual content, occasional violence

As a fan of magical realism, I went into The Exploding Book thinking “I’ll be ready for this, challenge accepted.” In actuality, nothing could have prepared me for how unusual this title is. I read it in small chunks, often in the dark and with a flashlight. I think this is most effective to get immersed in the style.

Thankfully, I like experimental prose and this offers that in spades. If some random aliens crash-landed to earth and we had access to their novels I’d imagine our rough translations of their work would somewhat resemble the character development here, and not in a bad way.

My favorite aspect is the writing style, and how it includes the reader who is described as observing a menagerie of side characters. But is the reader the main character? Not necessarily. I’d always felt a third presence between the main character and side characters, a sort of hidden narrator.

Back to the side characters for a moment, there are several of them. Their behavior varies from quirky to inexplicable and sometimes allegorical. This takes place in a town that seems far removed from earth but relative to it. The activities of these characters and their actions are open to interpretation, making for a poetic effect.

Speaking of poetic effect, the two things I somewhat struggled with along the way were 1. The use repetition (which seems to be for artistic effect, so it’s not without purpose) and 2. I didn’t really
care for the characters. But that feeling seemed suitable given the otherworldly nature of them.

I found the beginning and ending to be the most effective, but to be fair, I often feel that way about books. If you get midway through, I recommend following this one through to the end as I was left feeling like this book found itself, or rather, reaches its most effective moments during the climax and ending.

I was left wondering whether the author was making deep commentaries about cultural relativity or whether its a dreamlike exercise too far removed from simple or direct interpretation. An interesting feeling to have toward a book and I feel more open toward experimental/surreal fiction in the future.

Note : I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

Overall Rating – 8/10

Why You Should Check It Out – If you’re looking for odd, unusual, experimental, surreal- I think you get the point, this will be a book very much worth checking out.

Why You Might Not Like It – Frequent repetition and the characters are often mind-boggling.

The Exploding Book (Amazon Link)

Are you a fan of unorthodox / experimental fiction? Would be curious to hear your thoughts and recommendations if so, also if you have any interest in reading The Exploding Book or have already done so, I’m always welcoming your thoughts and comments.


10 thoughts on “Book Review : The Exploding Book by Mike Russell

  1. The premise of this book sounds interesting! I’m a fan of books that are unconventional and a bit surreal. Unfortunately I don’t often enjoy magical realism… it’s a hit and miss for me usually. I loved the depth you went to in the review!! 💙 Jen

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fantastic review! I really like the comparison you used about the aliens crash landing haha. I’ve been taking a break from YA contemporary stories, and this book sounds like the type of surreal story I’ve been searching for. Also, something about this book’s synopsis reminded me of the novel Sourdough by Robin Sloan—I don’t know how unorthodox Sourdough was as a whole, but the story was definitely unusual 😁.

    Liked by 2 people

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