Monday, November 28, 2011

A Regular by Andrew Bonazelli (2010)

The title of A Regular refers to a permanent fixture at a dive bar. And it starts out by observing the man living the kind of life you'd expect of him. Until things take a sudden, drastic turn, and just about everyone in the bar is suddenly a zombie, and our hero capably slays them. Sounds like a cool way to start a novella, right? And it would sound even cooler if I told you there was a pornogrind band, a Decepticon, a conjurer, and a street fight or two, right?

The legendary Clive Barker can throw a shitload of different stuff into a short book. Cabal features a serial killer, fantastic monsters, and a god that makes you ejaculate if you see him (it's been a few years since I read it, but I swear it's true). The book is awesome. That odd juxtaposition of different genre features is a staple of Barker's work, as is the post-modernist declination to explain why it all fits together. He is a master at it.

On the other hand, there is Andrew Bonazelli. Decibel's managing editor has put together a laundry list of things he thinks are cool, and all of it is encountered by a cynical, irreverent protagonist who, though certainly no success in life, is quite capable when the shit hits the fan. But instead of a masterful synthesis, what he's written is a series of vignettes without any cohesion or overarching conflict. Each chapter presents a different, vague problem (if any), without any prior foreshadowing. The solutions come off as deus ex machina, and to make it worse, later chapters make only weak reference to what has already happened.

The prose doesn't help matters much. The tangential descriptions sometimes sound juvenile, but worse is how confusing the "story" can be to follow. Helpful description and signposts are often discarded in favor of cynical sidebars or nothing at all. It's particularly problematic at the beginning of the book, especially if you don't know the story is going to be completely disconnected from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next.

The Verdict: There are some cool ideas in here, but that's pretty much all it is. It's a half-baked collection of junior high dreams. I give it 1 out of 5 stars.

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