The Gopher King - Book Review

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The Gopher King

Author: Gojan Nikolich
Genre: Fiction - General
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: November 2, 2020
ISBN-10: 1684335736
ISBN-13: 978-1684335732

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Book Review of :  The Gopher King



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The Gopher King, by Gojan Nikolich, is fantasy fiction with an ingenious plot told in the first person by Stan Przewalski  - sometimes known as "Stan Without a Plan." Stan is a Vietnam veteran with PTSD. He is the only reporter and the publisher of the weekly Bull River Falls Beacon-News. Stan's home town, the fictional Bull River Falls, is described as a tiny rural village in the foothills of Colorado. The town is introduced in the prologue by the elderly, eccentric Dora McCoy, as she speaks of defending her ranch against urban expansion, forest fire, and a murderer.

The storyteller relates his strange summer. "Can't remember in a straight line," he says as he struggles for normalcy when he visits his VA doctor, Dr. Nguyen, to obtain more psychotropic drugs for his PTSD. He embarks on an ill-advised trip to Vietnam with a tour group. The author uses humor to foil the horrors of the Vietnam war, as told in memories and nightmares. His narrations about combat in the Vietnam War are told with a great degree of accuracy.  He tells of his unit being ambushed and wiped out by a numerically superior unit and his struggle for survival. This is a very authentic depiction of war and the insanity that is combat in the backyard of the enemy. The combat stories he relates would appeal to Vietnam vets or anyone who are history buffs of the sixties.

When he returns to Bull River Falls as a newspaper reporter, he is faced with a bevy of strange happenings-  a Martian cow, a murder, raging wildfires, political unrest, and a talking gopher.

On a rainy road trip, Stan accidentally hits a prairie dog that he takes home and saves its life. The herbivores, named Chaz, is a talking prairie dog. The narrator tells how he was shocked by the gopher/black-tailed prairie dog and its ability to communicate. Perhaps this was due to Stan's sleeplessness or medicated state. However, he is intrigued by Chaz's knowledge of 1960s popular music, that he speaks in song lyrics and his eccentric dress.

Chaz's gopher colony is threatened by the construction of the Gold Gulch Golf Course and Retreat, a ski resort and estates. Backhoes scoop up gophers from their subterranean homes. Chaz, the supernatural gopher, assembles his army and 21st-century battle accouterments to prepare for battle. The storyteller is involved in no small way. Chaz even has the ability to miniaturize things, including humans. The author relates the horrors of the Vietnam War to the deceptively descriptive gopher army's struggle to regain its homeland.  Two perplexing worlds collide.

The author's unique ability at characterization is evident in his description of a "brunette in high heels and a little black dress." She was "attractive in an anorexic way; pale green eyes, the I-just-woke-up hair, pouty mouth." The gopher king "looked like a mansome metro-sexual hipster gangster dude at a Las Vegas roulette table that had, thanks to a botanic miracle, mated with a Chia plant." 

Chaz, a wannabe writer, has penned a 1,200 plus page autobiography titled, Chaz: My Life Underground. He is disheartened when advised that, "only books about love-struck teenage vampires and /or dystopian revolutionaries with orthodontically perfect teeth carrying bows and arrows who rebel against grownups get published."       
Humor develops into absurd hilarity. Chuckles and giggles (also grief) are found on every page. Laugh aloud word pictures keep the reader enthralled to the last page. Stan Przewalski is a stranger in a strange land, Nikolich's story shimmers with intersecting layers of identity and fantastical complexities. The author offers a great quote we all would agree with, "It would be nice to live two lives, one for practice and the next to finally get things right". 


Reviewed by: Carole W

About Gojan Nikolich


Gojan Nikolich is a former Chicago newspaper reporter, editor and public relations agency executive. He graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from DePaul University, served as a decorated U.S. Army sergeant with both the 2nd and 4th Infantry divisions and has worked as a journalist in Korea and Japan. He lives with his family in Colorado, where he and his wife once owned a weekly newspaper.





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