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A Hundred Thousand Worlds

A Hundred Thousand Worlds

5.0 1
by Bob Proehl

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“A Kavalier & Clay for the Comic-Con Age, this is a bighearted, inventive, exuberant debut.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints

"Proehl creates worlds within worlds within worlds, all of them full of surprise and wonder."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe



“A Kavalier & Clay for the Comic-Con Age, this is a bighearted, inventive, exuberant debut.” —Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints

"Proehl creates worlds within worlds within worlds, all of them full of surprise and wonder."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Valerie Torrey took her son, Alex, and fled Los Angeles six years ago—leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way. 

As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars, from a hapless twentysomething illustrator to a brilliant corporate comics writer stuggling with her industry's old-school ways to a group of cosplay women who provide a chorus of knowing commentary. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined.

A knowing and affectionate portrait of the geeky pleasures of fandom, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is also a tribute to the fierce and complicated love between a mother and son—and to the way the stories we create come to shape us.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Proehl lovingly illustrates the world of fan culture in this debut novel, presenting an accessible story with plenty of insider shout-outs for the true nerds. Years prior, on the heels of a terrible tragedy, Valerie Torrey ran away from a successful career on television. On "Anomaly," an X-Files–type show that inspired a rabid fan base, she and Andrew Rhodes played a time-traveling duo; off the set, they conceived a son. The story unfolds as Val drives their son, Alex, cross-country from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to reunite with Andrew. Alex hasn't seen his father in six years. At nine, he is small for his age and full of wonder, and right at the border of a more adult understanding of the world. Val hasn't told Alex that she'll return to New York without him. Instead she plans the road trip to coincide with her appearances at a number of comics conventions dotted across the country, and, as they draw closer to Los Angeles, doles out stories to Alex from the show that brought his parents together and tore them apart. Along the way, Val and Alex meet Brett, an illustrator who is touring to support his indie comic "Lady Stardust," and Gail Pope, a woman writing a series owned by one of the two major comic book distributors. Gail provides insight into the insular world of professional comic books. The prose can feel a bit heavy-handed in its earnestness, but this is an ambitious debut effort, and Proehl conveys his deep affection for comics and the people who build their life around them. (June)
From the Publisher
"Who doesn’t like a good origin story? This delightful novel has a dozen of them, each sparking deftly off the next. A work of wit and heart, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is for anyone who craves a smart family saga. Especially one with superheroes. I loved it completely." 
—Karen Joy Fowler, Booker Prize finalist and author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"Proehl creates worlds within worlds within worlds, all of them full of surprise and wonder. One of the best novels I have read in a while." 
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

"For all its acrobatic wit and outsize charm, at its heart this is the love story of two everyday heroes—a mother and a son—who, like their author, possess the superpower of storytelling. A Kavalier & Clay for the Comic-Con age, A Hundred Thousand Worlds is a bighearted, inventive, exuberant debut." 
—Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints

“A tribute to the pleasures of fandom — as well as to the special connection between a mother and her only child…Equal parts great American road-trip narrative and coming-of-age novel, this brilliant story from a debut novelist is a treat for the diehard nerds and fans among us.”

“With enthralling characters and tons of heart, this read (much like a good con) has something for everyone.”

A perfect summer read for the Comic-Con crowd . . . Anybody up on superheroes and X-Files will have a lot to love here.” –USA Today

“A truly beautiful read. Proehl effortlessly weaves an engaging story with very likable characters… It’s a relatable, heart-wrenching and poetic narrative for any comic book fan.”
– Tumblr, The Comics Blog

“Proehl has done an excellent job of integrating all of the story lines and creating memorable characters to populate them…The story is deeply satisfying and will delight both comics fans and general readers.” 
Booklist (Starred Review)

“Keen and insightful…a genuine and often moving tale of a mother and her son.”
Kirkus Reviews 

Library Journal
Nine-year-old Alex and his mother, Val, are on a cross-country road trip, stopping at comic book conventions en route to Los Angeles. Actress Val is best known for her role as Agent Bethany Frazier from the cult sf television show Anomaly, and her gigs signing autographs for geeky fans help pay the bills and prolong the time she has with her son before she has to deliver him to his estranged father. It has been six years since Val fled her costar ex-husband, taking Alex with her to start a new life in New York. Now she must make good on their custody arrangement, only she hasn't admitted to Alex what's in store. Alex is precocious but still a kid, sweet but increasingly savvy. He strikes up friendships with Brett, a struggling illustrator, and Gail, a lesbian comics writer, and a bevy of costumed women on the comic-con circuit—Red Emma, Ferret Lass, ExSanguina, and Astounding Woman—helps him understand that he's in charge of writing his own story. VERDICT Readers need not be into cosplay, comics, or superheroes to enjoy this touching first novel about a family deeply affected by tragedy, and a mother's love for her son.—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
Kirkus Reviews
An ex-actress and her son trek across America, hitting comics conventions along the way in Proehl's (Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin, 2008) first novel. Six years ago, Valerie Torrey was the star of Anomaly, an X-Files-like sci-fi TV show about two time-travel agents, which has obsessive fans. When an unimaginable tragedy struck, Valerie took her son, Alex, and fled LA for New York, leaving her show and her co-star husband, Andrew Rhodes, behind. Now, she and 9-year-old Alex are headed back across the country to meet with Andrew, and as they travel, the story deftly weaves past and present events until the full account of what happened years earlier is revealed. Along the way, Valerie makes appearances at comic-book conventions, where she meets Gail, a comics writer who draws attention to gender inequality, and Brett, a struggling illustrator. Proehl's observations about convention life are especially keen and insightful without being sneering or belittling. But by trying to appeal to comics fans and nonfans alike, the book sometimes breaks down. For example, in one chapter (conveniently titled "Women in Refrigerators"), Gail discusses at length how comics creators often kill female characters solely to spur male characters to action. While this is an important issue, Proehl just reiterates what most thoughtful comics readers already know, while possibly boring everyone else. The same could be said of Proehl's roman-à-clef-for-nerds concept: some might enjoy the endless array of thinly veiled icons (e.g. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, as well as comics writer Gail Simone, to name a few), but those not fully in the know may feel left behind. The prose sometimes lurches into overwrought, look-at-my-MFA style writing, but it's a testament to Proehl's talents that these stumbles never detract from the rest of the story, which is a genuine and often moving tale of a mother and her son. An appealing debut novel despite a few missteps.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

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Meet the Author

Bob Proehl grew up in Buffalo, New York, where his local comics shop was Queen City Bookstore. He has worked as a bookseller and programming director for Buffalo Street Books, a DJ, a record store owner, and a bartender. He has written for the 33⅓ book series and worked as a columnist and reviewer for the arts and culture site PopMatters.com. Proehl currently lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, stepson, and daughter.

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A Hundred Thousand Worlds 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
This story revolves around Valerie Torrey and her son. Val was part of the television show Anomaly. She fell in love with her co-star in real life along with on the show resulting in her pregnancy. But something happened and she left the show and moved to the other side of the county with Alex. Now, nine years later, she has been asked to be part of a series of comic-cons. She has decided that it is time that Alex meets his father so he goes on a trip from Chicago to LA. This in itself sounds like a great story but there is so much more. You will meet artists that are fighting to make their place in a world of commercialized heroes. Women that are looked on as objects to be seen and not for their work or contribution. And most of all reality vs. the fictional worlds. All of this goes into the stories that Alex makes through the different comic-cons. I admit that I always just though comic-cons were an odd assortment of gamer geeks or strange guys living in their mothers basements. But after I attended on I learned that there are so much more happening. This book covers a lot of what I saw, mainly people trying to stand out and make their mark on the world. Just for this part I fell in love with A Hundred Thousand Worlds. But you also have the story of Alex who only knows about his father from the television. I loved watching him grow on the trip. And the ending, it’s perfect but a definite tear jerker. You don’t have to be a comic-con fan or anything remotely case to enjoy this book. Just following along with Alex really makes this book. This is a must read. I received A Hundred Thousand Worlds for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.