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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Florida Man: A Review of FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Happy Spooky Season! Happy Best Season of the Year! Happy Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Time! Oh I simply love this time of year. I love curling up under a fluffy blanket with a nice cup of hot apple cider and reading a horror story. I have one of those stories for you today. Grab your fluffy blanket and drink of choice, and settle in for a tale of human desperation, disaster, and crimes against humanity.

Dancing skeletons.
Oh how I love the horror genre.

Please give a warm round of applause to FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven!

Book cover of FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven.

Before I get any further I must give a shout out to my bestie’s mom Monique. She’s the one who told me I needed to read this book. That was one or two years ago at this point and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. This book slaps. I could not put it down. Had I not read this in the middle of the week when I had to get up early for work the next morning, I would have stayed up into all hours of the night just to finish it. Alas I had to count down the hours until I was able to pick this book up again.

So let’s get to the synopsis. As always, a spoiler alert is in order, you’ve been warned. Also, I must issue a content and trigger warning. If this book was a movie, I’d say it’s a hard R due to the amount of violence and gore. FantasticLand has a lot of talk about brain matter. If gore is not your thing then you best stay away from this one. There are also mentions of rape and sexual assault within this book’s pages. Thankfully, unlike the gore, there are few details regarding this subject matter. The topic is more or less brought up in passing. I do suggest looking up more content and trigger warnings for this book. This read has some pretty disturbing imagery so I say be better safe than sorry. With that, let’s get to the synopsis.

Move over Disney, there’s a new theme park in town and it’s called FantasticLand. Built in 1970s, FantasticLand is the place where “fun is guaranteed!” And that slogan holds true till the book’s present day. It’s hurricane season in Florida. But being so far inland, the board and big shots of FantasticLand believe everything will be fine. There are safety protocols in place, most staff and all guests have been evacuated. There’s just a small skeleton crew made up of employee volunteers there to keep the park standing, and they have plenty of food and clean water to survive on. Everything will be fine.

This is fine dog meme.
Everyone during the course of the novel:

Cut to five weeks after Hurricane Sadie hits, rescue efforts finally make it to FantasticLand. Greeting them are decomposing bodies strung up on light posts, carnage everywhere, the smell of death and decay, and blood, lots and lots of blood. FantasticLand’s skeleton crew turned on each other. As it turns out, things turned sour fast. After leaving the storm shelter everyone went their separate ways.

This is how the tribes were born. You’ve got the Pirates, the Mole Men, the ShopGirls, the Deadpools, the Robots, the Fairies, and the Freaks. Some are a lot more violent than others. Cough, cough, Pirates and ShopGirls I’m talking to you. Anyway, these six tribes put the boys in Lord of the Flies to shame. For those five weeks the workers of FantasticLand commit war crimes and atrocities against one another.

This is fine dog meme.
Rescue teams when they get to FantasticLand:

Oh my god. Oh my god! This book! I don’t know if I have words to describe how much I love this book. It’s just so good.

Ok, so first of all, this book is told through first-person interviews with FantasticLand survivors. (If you want to learn a new word today, this style is called epistolary.) Mike Bockoven does an incredible job with the characters. In every interview, I felt so bad for the character talking. Hearing their story and perspective makes you feel as if the character speaking was the only sane person in the park, the only one trying to keep camaraderie high, and the only one doing good. Cut to the next chapter where there’s a new character who was name dropped in the previous chapter by the former character. The new narrator is supposed to be the spawn of Satan, except they’re not. While reading their story, hearing their side of things, the new narrator is actually the only one doing good, the only sane one, the only one keeping things together. And the circle repeats.

This is perhaps the best part of the novel. It feels so realistic. Nearly every character exists in that morally gray space that I love my book characters to exist in. Every character thinks they did the best they could in the situation, and sometimes that involves fighting the other tribes to death for no good reason.

Woman clapping.
Round of applause for Mike Bockoven for this!

Let’s get into imagery now. Disturbing, gory, and vivid as hell. There are definitely some haunting images within these pages. Like I said in the content warning, if you can’t handle gore then this book is not for you. I’ve read about brain matter more times while reading this than I ever need to. So yeah, disturbing, gory images to haunt my dreams for a while. Mike Bockoven paints a horrifying picture that every horror fan needs to read.

The next thing I want to talk about goes out to everyone who has read FantasticLand. It’s the question we all have. Who are the Warthogs? They are an enigma. They are a mystery I need the answers to. If the author ever wants to write a novel or novella all about the Warthogs and their exploits during the events of FantasticLand and/or beyond, I shall be the first in line to buy it. I need to know who they are and their motivations. Personally, I believe they’re the Mole Men who disappeared at the start of the novel. I know there’s a note that says one of the Warthogs is a woman, but I’m not buying it. I think those two missing Mole Men went mad in the woods and became the Warthogs. The other option floating around in my head is the Warthogs ate those Mole Men. It’s one of those two things. I will die on this hill.

Shut up and take my money meme.
Me the moment a book about The Warthogs drop:

Anyway, this was a phenomenal book. FantasticLand pays homage to Lord of the Flies and is ten times better than its predecessor. Filled with realistic and disturbing imagery, this story will leave you haunted. Horror fans, you need to read this novel.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with another great post. We’ll be continuing on with the good Spooky Season vibes so get your pumpkin spice at the ready.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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