Baen Books, 2013, 368 pages
On Saturday afternoon, Nikki Delany thought, "George Wilson, in the kitchen, with a blender." By dinner, she had killed George and posted his gory murder to her blog. The next day, she put on her mourning clothes and went out to meet her best friend for lunch to discuss finding a replacement for her love interest.
Nikki is a horror novelist. Her choice of career is dictated by an obsessive compulsive disorder that forces her to write stories of death and destruction. She can't control it, doesn't understand it, but can use it to make money anywhere in the world. Currently "anywhere" is in Japan, hiding from her mother who sees Nikki's OCD as proof she's mentally unstable. Nikki's fragile peace starts to fall apart when the police arrest her for the murder of an American expatriate. Someone killed him with a blender.
Reality starts to unravel around Nikki. She's attacked by a raccoon in a business suit. After a series of blackouts, she's accompanied by a boy that no one else can see, a boy who claims to be a god. Is she really being pursued by Japanese myths - or is she simply going insane?
Eight Million Gods reads like an otaku fangirl letting all her freak flags fly. A fan fiction writer heroine goes to Japan to escape an evil domineering mother, becomes possessed by a cute Samurai spirit boy, hauls a katana around and gets in battles with gods and monsters, and winds up with the hot cat-dude in the end.
Nikki Delany suffers from hypergraphia, a kind of OCD that compels her to write on any available surface. When given writing materials and an outlet, she writes gory horror stories and yaoi fan fiction. Her mother, a U.S. senator, has kept her locked up and hospitalized for much of her life, appalled by both her disorder and the things she writes. Nikki has escaped her mother, with some money from an advance after actually getting one of her novels sold, and now she's in Japan, with a small but loyal fanbase. Things go wrong when a Japanese police officer overhears her describing to one of her friends her latest murder scene - a gaijin businessman in Japan is murdered in his apartment by having a blender shoved through his stomach.
Problem is, it turns out that a gaijin businessman in Nikki's city was just murdered in his apartment by having a blender shoved through his stomach. Understandably, the police have a few questions for her.
At this point, the story goes off the rails and only occasionally regains direction. The author packed this book with every manga trope you can imagine. There are manic pixie Japanese dream girls who use aikido on lecherous groping sararimen. There are kami and spider-geishas and Samurai ghosts and Susanoo hiding magic spears and gods possessing shrine maidens and gaijin running through a Japanese street festival chased by yakuza tanuki and secret anti-supernatural government organizations (run by a man named "Shiva"). Nikki, it turns out, is actually an oracle whose writing is describing actual events, which means whenever we need some exposition or to get over the next plot bump, she scribbles a scene from some other character's point of view. The plot is about saving the world from a vengeful goddess, which involves a lot of MacGuffin hunts and lengthy teeheehees about how very Japanese Japan is.
Wen Spencer, who is really a paranormal romance author pretending to write urban fantasies, is lucky she's not a YA author — she'd be canceled faster than you can say "weeaboo."
I listened to this as an audiobook, and while this is not entirely the author's fault, I think she must take some of the blame for the tone she set with her writing, which apparently inspired the narrator to give every Japanese character a thick Japanese accent (even when they are speaking Japanese to other Japanese). The female Japanese characters mostly spoke in high-pitched schoolgirl squeals.
Nikki has a final confrontation with her evil mother (family secrets are revealed, but not how even a senator can have a basically functional adult involuntarily committed), and then she winds up with her growly happa cat-dude (you can tell who's the love interest right away because he "growls" practically all of his dialog) after facing down the Big Bad.
This was a brainless magical cat girl of a novel, cute and fluffy and entertaining in the way that stuffing your face with candy is entertaining, but leaves you feeling empty and a little queasy.
Also by Wen Spencer: My review of The Black Wolves of Boston.
My complete list of book reviews.