John Darnielle’s second book is about the space between two separate worlds – the one we live in and the one we think we live in. It’s a place where aspirations are born, where imagination develops . . . also where great loneliness lives.
We follow Sean Philips, who has been in an accident, a bad one, and he’s tracing his way backwards to his younger self to make sense out of it. Sean also follows himself forward from the accident, describing how he designs a game he titles Trace Italian for which players mail him their move and he replies with the next turn. Trace Italian advances toward a promise of redemption, and the book itself also advances toward a similar promise, but about such endings Sean says that his players don’t play to discover the end or, he advises, “they shouldn’t be.” One would wonder if he is also addressing his readers.
What we get instead from Wolf in White Van is a trajectory toward an event that can have only an aftermath rather than a recovery. Sad. Yes. Intelligent and unique, also yes!