Title: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
Rating: 4 Stars
The setting is some recognizable near future. A businessman / gangster (Arthur Livingston) has recently died and there’s a mad scramble to seize his assets, especially a super secret project that he was working on that has the ability to give superhero capabilities to anyone. Many years ago, he had an illegitimate daughter that he neglected. She is now living in a trailer park with her mother. For reasons not clear, he has bequeathed his entire estate to his daughter (Zoey Ashe). Now, people loyal to Livingston are trying to protect Zoey while others (including a really bad guy named Molech) are attempting to kill her and destroy the city that her father essentially built.
That’s the plot in a nutshell. In short, this is another David Wong novel. I first encountered Wong when reading the Cracked website and listening to the Cracked podcast. He is an insightful commentator on our world today (especially in the current Trump environment). He’s a pretty unabashed liberal who has not forgotten his conservative Midwest upbringing and tries diligently to marry these two political threads of his life.
Wong has written three novels. The first two are a series, with a slightly postmodern edge in that David Wong is a character in the novels. David Wong is a pseudonym for Jason Pargin, but he’s so open about this fact that, at this point, I honestly don’t know what good there is in continuing to use the name David Wong.
The third book, by the looks of things, also appears to be the setup for at least a sequel, if not an outright franchise.
Wong’s books all kind of follow the same path. The protagonist is a low rent, white trash kind of person. The protagonist is not really successful in life but clearly has a lot of native intelligence that has gone substantially unused due to the environment that he/she lives in. Some external force enters the protagonist’s life and throws it all into upheaval.
The protagonist, relying upon his/her wits, must, in the face of rampant violence and a nearly invincible foe, rise up to the challenge and conquer the foe to save himself/herself and quite possibly the world itself.
He writes with great cleverness and creativity. He does a good job imagining a world that is different but yet is recognizable. His characters, instead of wilting in the face of extreme danger and certain death, appear to adopt a Ryan Reynolds persona, blithely brave and cocky, throwing out clever quips while around them bullets and other implements of destruction are shot at them.
It’s basically a roller-coaster ride. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you know what you’re getting into.
He could use a stronger editor. His books all seem to reach a point of absurdist singularity, where things just get so extreme that he loses control of the plot and the action. When I read Wong, I eagerly consume the first several hundred pages and marvel at his creativity. For the last third of the book or so, I’m ready for the book to end. How many more explosions do we actually need? How many more near death experiences must our protagonist face? How much closer does the world have to get to destruction? To get back to the roller-coaster analogy, the ride just goes on a bit too long and instead of being thrilled, the riders begin to get just a bit fidgety.
To his credit, it took longer in this book then it did with the others to reach this singularity, which I’m interpreting as a hopeful sign that he’s becoming a stronger writer.
I did enjoy the book and I’m hoping that the roller-coaster ride continues to tighten up over time.