ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Westlake Soul Review: My Kind of Superhero

Westlake Soul made me cry.

This is a phrase that's going to be the calling card for Rio Youer's new book.

Here's probably how the conversations are going to go over the next year:

"Just read Westlake Soul."

"Did you like it?"

"It made me cry."

"Me too."

Here's what the publisher released as a tease:
"All superheroes get their powers from somewhere. A radioactive spider bite. A science experiment gone awry. I got mine from a surfing accident in Tofino. The ultimate wipeout. I woke up with the most powerful mind on the planet, but a body like a wet paper bag..." 

Meet Westlake Soul, a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion. A loving son and brother. But if you think he's just a regular dude, think again; Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can't move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus - a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself. 
Westlake dreams of a normal life - of surfing and loving again. But time is running out; Dr. Quietus is getting closer, and stronger. Can Westlake use his superbrain to recover... to slip his enemy's cold embrace before it's too late?
 Westlake Soul is the grandchild of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Get His Gun, Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume, and a hippie voodoo love child from the 1970s.
Rio Youers, Peter Straub and Me (Austin 2011)

Like Trumbo, Youers tells the tale a young man taken in his prime, locked within his own body. Trumbo, who won the National Book Award for Johnny, shares the feeling of helplessness and longing that Youers so terrifically captures with Westlake Soul.

Everytime I read a passage of Westlake's soul soaring free, Bach's seagull was pictured in my mind. Like the seagull, Westlake is trying to get away from his body and establish a connection with anything... anyone. The idea of being locked into something and being incapable of breaking away is central to both books.

But for all the tragedy in Westlake Soul, the humanity and the humor is rendered with a genius hand. The only other author I know who can successfully deliver brutality and humor in justaposed lines is Tom Robbins. Although Youers work in no way compares to Jitterbug Perfume in style, plot, or theme, the humor rendered by both authors is the same. This humor establishes Westlake's humble humanity and makes him a character we care about.

I'm not going to get into the plot. You've seen enough here to know what it's about. I just want to talk about the writing. This is not so much a review of Westlake Soul as it is an ode. Youers constant theme in his fiction is about the idea of being able to rehabilitate broken characters. In Westlake Soul, you not only journey through Westlake's own self-rehabilitation, but you also feel yourself healing as well. This is no easy task.

When fiction transcends the page as it did with Westlake Soul, you know that this is a special book.

I'm pleased to call Rio Youers a friend and fellow author. I'm even more pleased now to watch the success he will garner with this intense, sad, funny novel about what it is to be human.

Final Note: I was fortunate enough to hear Youers read the first three chapters. He has a softly poetic, lilting quality to his voice, as well as a slight British accent. It is with this voice my mind read the rest to me. It is this voice that is the voice of Westlake.


  1. Nice write up of Westlake. Yeah, it made me cry...it made me ache...it also gave me hope.

  2. Thanks Midnyte. I saw yours as well. Good take and good catches. In the end, I think Rio did something special.