Argus is in a dead-end job, with a crappy living situation and an uneventful life. He is largely absent from the world, choosing not to interact with his many roommates, and having little experience with quality human interaction. That is, this is Argus' life until now. A mysterious encounter with a stranger leaves Argus with a strange box filled with seemingly unrelated artifacts. He doesn't know what it all means, and, with an absent family and no real friends, he doesn't have anyone to ask. When one of his roommates reaches out to him in kindness one night and notices the odd collection, the roommates set out on an adventure to discover the meaning behind the mystery.
Tom Lichtenberg has written a short novel that is both appealing and spellbinding as you discover clues right along with Argus. The desire to figure out the meaning behind the box of items keeps you reading until the end. That ending, however, felt somewhat abrupt and rushed, and was a bit of a disappointment after the path of discoveries. It is hinted that this experience has left Argus changed, and I would have liked a little more information about that change and what impact it might have. I wanted to know more about what happened to the other characters at the end as well. I wanted a little more, and I would be interested in further stories in this same vein.
The writing style is unique, but well-suited to this type of unconventional story. The character of Argus is fairly well-developed. He is a very insular man who has very few authentic interactions with others, preferring to spend endless hours alone with his own thoughts. There is just enough information given to make you wonder more about Argus' family, as well as his experiences with others growing up. Some of this backstory may well be included in "Snapdragon Alley," a prequel of sorts to this book, where Argus' older brother holds center stage. I also want to know much more about the character of Fulsom. How did he end up needing to be "in charge" of the situation presented at the end?
Overall, an engaging, enjoyable read that may benefit from a little more development in the ending. It also could use one last thorough editing pass, as there were several small errors noted in the book (including "lock" instead of "luck" and calling the store "Pay'n'Pay" before next calling it "Pay'n'Save.").
3 /5 stars
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