I love David Wong. Admittedly, I wasn’t around for PWOT, and I don’t really follow Cracked all that much (I’m also guessing WISECRACKED is a completely different entity), but his books have entertained me over the many… Four years. I found out he existed around the time his second book, This Book is Full of Spiders, was new. I ended up enjoying the shit out of it, and even picked up the legendary John Dies at the End right after I finished that one.
Apparently, I was significantly late to the party when it comes to his third book, but hey, the important thing is I got to it. Eventually. A year later. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!
Unlike his previous novels, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits doesn’t follow the demon hunting shinanigans of David and John. Instead, it follows the story of Zoey: trailer trash turned millionaire. And for the record, my spellchecker is thoroughly bitching me out over the spelling of the name ZOEY, but according to the page on Audible.com, I’m spelling it right. So fuck you, spellchecker. ALWAYS NAY-SAYING! Dick.
The audio book is read by Christy Romano, and she is absolutely perfect. She’s got a wide range of voices, her reading style never gets tedious, and her timing is on the mark. I enjoyed this performance very much. Which is good, because this book is a wee bit tedious in spots.So… Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before, but a fat girl from the trailer park suddenly becomes an ultra-billionaire upon her father’s passing, and inherits a mansion the size of a small town. She also finds herself in a town where there are no laws, no regulations, and no cops. A libertarian dream come true… Right up until you get to the part where everybody’s AWARE of the fact there’s no rules and regulations, and ultimately turn the city into a personal playground for killers, a safe haven for every illegal substance on the planet, and the battleground between the team of Zoey and “The Fancy Suits”, and one of the most psychotic people I’ve seen in fiction in quite a while. I’ve literally seen Dragon Ball Z villains with more subtlety to them than the villain of this book… But I guess when you don’t have to hide in the shadows, and your entire self worth is based on how many Twitter followers… Excuse me, BLINKER followers you have, there’s probably no point in being subtle, is there?
I’ll give Wong this much: the world he’s built is fascinating. There’s plenty of detail that has me thinking someone’s on the verge of writing a wiki. Hell, if there’s more than one book in the series, that just might happen. They made a wiki for Punch Out of all things, so why not?
While I know it’s played up for laughs, I actually don’t have a difficult time believing people would sooner switch on their blinker cameras on their glasses and stream a murder happening right in front of them in the name of subscribers than… You know, actually helping the victim? Or even running away in terror, for that matter. The idea of a futuristic anarchy zone like Tabula Ra$a (I’m guessing on that spelling based on the few hints the audio book has given me) reminds me of similar settings I’ve encountered over the years. It’s like a more futuristic Nightside, or a less demonic Midian. But while the core concept sounds has a bit of a “SIMPSONS DID IT!” vibe to it, The city as a whole is original enough to where you don’t even think about it when you’re reading it.
If I have one problem with the book, it’s how Wong milks the suspense for everything it’s worth. I go into this book knowing full well Zoey’s not a fighter. She has no cybernetic parts like the villains, she has no martial arts training… Hell, her only real skill is that she gives really good “massages”. I went in knowing she was going to get taken hostage at least once. I’m also aware the villain of the book is a bit of a drama queen, as is everyone in this universe. I just wish the attempt at building suspense and tention didn’t go on FOR FUCKING EVER!
Look, I can appreciate good banter between hero and villain. A villainous monologue can be pretty epic, and the hero’s moment of pure helplessness can be pretty intense when done right. But man, I wish the punchline would hurry up and get here. It’s one thing to know in your heart of hearts that the bad guys aren’t going to succeed in burying someone alive, and it’s another thing for it to drag on, and on, and on, and on. All the while, you already know the punchline is coming, which ultimately kills the attempt at suspense dead. Admittedly, I didn’t see the EXACT punchline coming, but I knew something was going to come along and save the day.
And it wouldn’t be an especially big problem if it didn’t happen over and over and over again. By the time it got to the final battle, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency. Hell, despite Romano’s performance, I actually wanted to hit fast forward just to get to the god damn punchline already!
The book is a whopping seventy chapters long, but much like Nax Barry’s Jennifer Government, it becomes significantly less intimidating when you realize the chapters are ridiculously short. Half the time, chapters end in the middle of conversations, and the next chapter picks up right where the conversation left off! I wouldn’t say it’s annoying, but it does make me wonder out loud why the author went that route.
These complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this story. Admittedly, not as much as the David and John stories, but if Wong writes a sequel to this novel, I might consider giving it a read.