by J.B. Velasquez
Genre: Science Fiction / Metaphysical
Print Length: 320 pages
Reviewed by Audrey Davis
Unique and abstract—a tale of trust and humanity
Tobias Munch feels stuck. Stuck at a job he hates, in an apartment he hates. He’s recently divorced and looking for solace in the novel he’s been writing for the last eight years.
“More than anything, Tobias wanted to be understood.”
Enamored with a vibrant barista, Mia, from the café he frequents, he yearns in secret until the night she accidentally hits him with her car. And invites him into her life.
He takes psychedelic drugs with her, desperate to impress her, but their trip takes them to a place called the “the–in-between”—the afterlife between life and death. Tobias is trapped once again, it seems. And it’s up to him to find the answers.
J. B. Velasquez’s debut sci-fi novel Tourist Trapped reveals an intricate world in which the reader is not fully asked to suspend disbelief, just to come along for a ride.
Velasquez has a wonderful way of describing the situations and settings in which we’re thrown. The storytelling style feels natural with a good mix of point of view and dialogue. The descriptions and inner-workings of “the in-between” shapes the story well and makes it all feel somewhat plausible.
The reader gets to see how people communicate with others throughout the vastness of this purgatory, as well as the many activities one can do to stay busy while there. This attention to worldbuilding is refreshing, and it kept the pages turning quicker. I also loved that Uber was responsible for all transportation; a comical choice, but one of many specific details that suggests that “the in-between” bears some resemblance to our current plane of existence.
Another personal enjoyment: there is no connection to religion in terms of this afterlife. Everyone arrives at “the in-between” first, and whatever happens in the “Great Beyond” past the final doorway is left to the individual’s (and readers’) interpretation.
Because of this, the author is able to show different people from different walks of life here, how they interact with their surroundings, and how they cope with their new situation. It is uncomfortable to confront one’s own mortality, but the author does a wonderful job of showing humanity in every aspect. The witty, dry humor throughout compliments the story nicely; despite the seriousness of most scenes, Tobias never fails to make light of the situation somehow.
The author’s background in psychotherapy brings forward a unique perspective on introspection and how every aspect of character development is a type of growth. This novel might pass as a science fiction story, but there is realism snaking its way into Tobias’s musings. He might not be the strongest character right away, but he learns how to point himself in the right direction, and we get to watch how it makes a world of a difference.
“If you weren’t scared, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
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