Novel: Million Mile Road Trip by Rudy Rucker

Rudy Rucker made an indelible impression on me as a young writer, and while reading the stream-of-conscious invention of Million Mile Road Trip (2019) reminded me precisely why that is, its voluminous, free-flowing narrative didn’t quite enthrall me throughout. This transrealist comic adventure starts in the fictional northern California city Los Perros, where high-school students and budding sweethearts Zoe Snapp and Villy Antwerpen are careening toward high-school graduation and the world beyond. They decide to run away together, planning a road trip in Villy’s treasured car “the Purple Whale.” But when Zoe punches a transdimensional tunnel into the neighboring plane of Mappyworld with her trumpet during a jazz solo, their romantic runaway turns into a surreal, otherworldly adventure involving alien companions, Villy’s nerdy younger brother Scud, and a collision course with a fleet of Earth-invading, sentient flying saucers.

As usual, Rucker’s prose is effortlessly read and wildly inventive, posessing an enviable facility for anything-goes what-the-fuckery that spins Zoe, Villy, and Scud into their cosmic road trip across weird alien landscapes. Rucker also stirs in familiar dollops of humorous antics and mind-warping mathematics, and he attacks the scenario with gusto, injecting the road trip with enough energy to carry most of the book. It’s possible, though, that the narrative audacity is too unmitigated during a muddy-middle stretch. One of the drawbacks of Rucker’s rapid-fire approach is that tight-corner tension is often quickly diffused by deus ex machinations—in this case, when the heroes’ alien companions keep conjuring spontaneous superpowers to right the ship whenever it goes sideways. The hijinks do grow a bit long in the tooth in the final act, but ultimately it’s still a fast, funny read that fits nicely into Rucker’s uniquely gonzo body of work.

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