July 22, 2011

Your micro-review roundup: 22 July 2011

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Black Hole Blues, by Patrick Wensink

Black Hole Blues
By Patrick Wensink
Lazy Fascist Press / Eraserhead

Because I end up reading so much of it (because of the authors in this subgenre having such strong professional networks over at such lit communities as Goodreads.com), I can attest that there are generally two types of so-called "bizarro" fiction that exists, a style equally known by the terms "gonzo" and "strange;" there is the type of odd that's literally like a text cartoon, obtuse and non-narrative and that only appeals to a niche crowd, and then there's the type of odd that gets you a writing job on a Sam Raimi Saturday-afternoon television show, a much more preferable type of odd simply for being more entertaining, which usually succeeds by taking a realistic concept for its core and then hanging a bunch of surreal elements off it. Take for example Patrick Wensick's Black Hole Blues (a writer I've reviewed before), which can be actually fairly well described by the simple phrase "Raising Arizona meets quantum physics," a dual storyline about twin brothers who respectively become a world-famous country musician and a pioneer at Europe's Large Hadron Collider, and how it becomes clear that the pair's pasts are actually complexly entwined after a sudden artificial black hole at the LHC threatens to end all life on the planet.

Odd as that may be, it's still pretty easy for most audience members to at least comprehend, a storyline that at least adheres to the normal rules of time and physics; and so that's what lets Wensink add some truly bizarre details to the throwaway moments, such as the delightful chapters narrated not by the grizzled country star but his actual guitar, disgusted at the fat, soft old man the singer has become, and lamenting the days when he got more sex than any of the other guitars that would go out back then on their giant '70s arena tours. That kind of crap is hilarious, without us necessarily losing track of what's going on in our main plotline, which much like Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker" books is the exact kind of bizarro I like best; like all gonzo comedy, it's not for everyone, but definitely is one of the ones you should pick up if you're only going to try one of these types of books this year, a rollicking story that will intensely appeal to all the Monty Python fans and Comic Book Guys of the world.

Out of 10: 8.7, or 9.7 for fans of bizarro

Bodyslick

Bodyslick
By John H. Sibley
Vibe Street Lit / Kensington

I confess -- I so love the guilty pleasure of enjoying a book more than I probably should that I dedicate an entire best-of list to the subject here at the blog at the end of every year; and there's not much better of an example of what I'm talking about than John H. Sibley's Bodyslick, which to be clear is not much better than mediocre in actual quality, but that boasts a high concept I found irresistible, essentially day-after-tomorrow science-fiction meets blaxploitation film, set in a gritty futuristic Chicago and with there being not a single stereotype of "urban fiction" ever invented that Sibley doesn't love. And indeed, to be fair, in relative terms to the other kinds of projects in this vein, Bodyslick actually isn't bad at all, with writing that's essentially on par with, say, the average episode of the cheesy cable thriller Burn Notice, another big guilty pleasure of mine; but even while we can acknowledge something like Burn Notice as a lot of fun, we also must acknowledge that it's simply not that good from a technical aspect, something that's important to note with Bodyslick as well if you want a chance of enjoying it for what it is. A book that probably should've gotten a lower score than it's getting, but that got bumped up a little merely from Sibley's always gleeful embrace of over-the-top melodrama (and yes, I admit, half a point extra just for that outrageous front cover as well, which made me warmly laugh every single time I pulled it out in public this week and caught the looks of all the people around me), this is not only an official product of Vibe magazine's publishing wing but also feels many times like what The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder would come up with if hired to write a parody of Vibe magazine's publishing wing, and it comes specifically recommended to those who enjoy reading with tongue firmly in cheek.

Out of 10: 7.8

Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:11 PM, July 22, 2011. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |