Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whiffs of benzene and cordite wafted in the breeze - the smell of freedom

James Warner's All Her Father's Guns was the first time I accepted a book from an author that reached out to me.* I've gotten a couple other emails from authors but it seems pretty clear they haven't really looked at the type of books I read since most of those were paranormal YA books or romance books or general chick lit. I don't have a problem with any of these, but they aren't for me.** But Warner's book stuck out because satire! Use of the absurd! These are things I like to hear. Plus, as I found out later Ben over at Dead End Follies also was reading it so that was just another check in the plus column for this one.

The book is about Cal Lyte, a gun-loving Libertarian and businessman. His ex-wife is running for Arizona senate and is trying to squeeze Cal for more alimony money. Cal recruits his daughter's boyfriend, the academic Reid, to help him dig up dirt on Tabytha. Things naturally (because it's a book and there needs to be a plot) spin out of control and get more and more bizarre.

There are wonderful moments where things are absurd, but just realistic enough so you could believe someone could do or say those things. A couple examples:
  • Cal's voicemail message is the sound of a fetal heartbeat. He's VERY pro-life.
  • Most of what comes out of Tabytha's mouth, such as "As we plan the rebuilding of America, I like to look at this replica of the derringer that killed Abraham Lincoln, to remind me that not even a President can violate the Constitution with impunity"
  • A colleague of Reid's at the university has been spending most of his career "analyzing continuity errors in Casablanca".
 That said, the tone of the book felt uneven. It strayed at points where it lost the humor and the satire and felt like a straightforward thriller perhaps? I'm not really sure how it would have been categorized. Anyway. It always came back, but when it wandered, it wandered too far. Part of this could be due to the dual narrators of Reid and Cal. Cal is the primary narrator but Reid has a chapter here and there that breaks up the momentum. It's fun to see Reid's point of view on academia, but it would have been better if it was all Cal.

*This part has spoilers. But it was my favorite part of the book so decide if you should venture in*
My favorite part of the book, the part that tipped over into ridiculous came near the end: Cal goes down to Mexico to hang out on a friend's boat for awhile and take a little vacation. When he gets down there he gets kidnapped by revolutionaries. A revolutionary group that calls itself "el Frente Nuevo Revolucionario Unido Guevarista-Zapatista Popular y Antiimperialista por el Liberacion Indigena Internacional" or "FNRUGZPALII" for short. Naturally. They're sort of new at the whole "revolutionary" thing and can't even decide if they should hold Cal for ransom or just have him hang around. They only owns one firearm as "there was disagreement within the group regarding the permissible uses of violence in a revolutionary context". I think I just like the idea of the theoretical revolutionaries. They have the academic ideas, but no experience in the matter.
*Spoilers contained*

*I was going to say the first books I accepted from an author but that's not really true. Anthony Neil Smith sent me Choke On Your Lies and Yellow Medicine after I wrote a review of Hogdoggin'. And that book was given to me by Ben. I probably should have included some note about those facts in those posts, but I didn't. Whoops.

**Separate question from the post, but what do you guys do with review offers if you don't want the book? Do you ignore the email? Respond and say no thanks? Respond with a tirade about how the book is nothing like what you like and clearly that person doesn't really read your site?

Title quote from location 1230

Warner, James. All Her Father's Guns. Numina Press, 2011. Kindle edition