If you are searching for a creative, funny, imaginative book, look no further than Junk by Christopher Largen. He has created a future United States in which junk food (from pastries to red meat and everything in between) has been banned. The government refers to it as a domestic war that must be combated. Junk food users are treated as drug addicts or dealers are treated today - targeted, hunted and sometimes even killed for their junk food addiction. With junk food outlawed, a black market crept up through which citizens can purchase the banned goods and dealers such as the Candy Man can capitalize on the cravings of their fellow citizens. The dynamic between all the characters – cops, citizens and dealers alike – frames a society in which everyone is paranoid and no one is spared suspicion.Through the characters of Sergeant Belcher, Officer Justin Bailey, Billy Sweet and Reverend Moe Goodman, Largen demonstrates the moral dilemmas present in declaring war on something that imposes on American citizens’ inalienable rights. Belcher is dedicated and persistent in tracking down and incarcerating junkies. Bailey starts out committed to this domestic warfare, but begins to question his work and ultimately comes to his own conclusions. Billy Sweet is an underground pastry chef who offers a view from the world the officers are trying to demolish. Lastly, Reverend Goodman is a strong advocate for the war on junk until he, too, begins to question the very foundations the war is built on and the consequences of the actions. Junk provides humorous commentary on a serious social issue we face here in the United States. How far will the government go before we are stripped of all our freedoms and rights? They have already taken measures towards removing snack and soda machines in many schools across the nation. The intent may be good, but it certainly begs the question – is Largen’s world really as far-fetched as it seems?
When Randal Snell, also known as the ‘Killer Castrator’, winds up on death row for castrating gay men, his lawyer announces via CNN that his client holds the right to choose his method of execution. Upon hearing this, documentary filmmaker Dov Montana sees an opportunity to create what he claims to be the ‘revolution’ of reality television. Montana approaches an old colleague, Lerz Feignold, who runs a pay-per-view reality television company, ‘Tude Entertainment. Feingold, although apprehensive about working with Montana, also views the opportunity as one that would send ‘Tude Entertainment viewer numbers skyrocketing. With Feingold’s approval and hesitant cooperation Montana approaches Snell’s lawyer Conrad Rangefork Thistle III. Thistle agrees to the show under the naïve assumption that the debate sparked by the show will eventually lead to a reduction of Snell’s sentence. As the story pans out, it becomes clear that there are many differing objectives involved in the project. Serena, the dim-witted but smoking hot blonde attempting to sleep her way to fame, peppers the conversation with stereotypical “likes” and clueless statements. Feingold craves the ratings and success of ‘Tude Entertainment, but the power struggle between him and Montana will affect him more than he wishes. Dov so greatly desires to bring the ‘revolution’ while making a name for himself, but his sololiquoys are so convoluted its difficult to tell what he’s actually aiming for. Thistle, quite simply, has fewer concerns for his client than he leads the public to believe. This leaves Randal Sell himself, whose only desire is to get it all over with. The collision of these agendas culminates in a portrait of American society at its worst.David A. Brensilver brilliantly raises so many questions about our society on every page of “ExecTV” that it is impossible to pinpoint one as the main focus. It is difficult to decide what is more incredulous and surprising– the situation or the characters themselves. The novel speaks to what is worst about our society and it characterizes these traits in a very truthful way. The fact that it is a fairly accurate portrayal of our society’s behavior should be enough for everyone to read “ExecTV” and seriously contemplate the nature of modern American culture.
In “Cherry Whip”, Michael Antman explores the process of acclimating oneself to a foreign culture in a variety of events. Hiroshi is a relatively unknown clarinet player who arrives in New York City from Japan to play a few shows and interact with other musicians. From the very beginning, he is met with misfortune; he accidentally leaves his brand new clarinet, a gift from his father, somewhere in the city and has no idea where to find it. Within the next few days, he finds himself crippled with Guillain-Barre – a disease that leaves him completely, albeit temporarily, paralyzed from his neck down. After three months in the hospital, he is released back into the city and forced to find his way in the city. Hiroshi’s life in New York is compiled of unexpected and at times comedic events and people. As the novel follows his new life it also delves into the secrets of Hiroshi’s past. He is plagued by the memories of a sister who’s fate he feels he could have changed and feels guilty for the disappointment his father feels towards his late mediocrity. His heart is pulled in a million different directions as his concern for the girlfriend he left behind in Japan, the new women in his life in New York and his family weighs him down. The story of Hiroshi is one that many can sympathize and connect with. It is a story of love, loss, regret and identity. Antman does a wonderful job showing the pain of Hiroshi’s condition, both physically and emotionally. We follow Hiroshi as he experiences all that the city has to offer and witness the effects of these experiences as he beings to find the courage to handle his life, all on his own.
In the novel “The Amadeus Net, Mark A. Rayner has imagined a post-apocalyptic world in which machines have developed a conscious, Mozart is still alive in 2028 and the parts of the world that survived after the acpolayptic episode, the Shudder, are attempting to obliterate each other with nukes. (Oh, right. That last part doesn’t sound so much like fiction, does it?) The reader is taken to Ipolis, a utopia in the southern hemisphere for those able to escape the devastated parts of the world. For the most part, admittance is permitted only to artists of some kind with the exception of a few wealthy inhabitants who must turn their money over to Ipolis. It is a land that has abolished work for monetary gain and is made up of people all creating passionate art for art’s sake. It is also under the operation of ‘One’, the collective conscious identity of the computers that operate Ipolis. The story is infused with sensational characters that feel realistic emotions and combat realistic internal issues. Mozart (or Will, as he is called in the 21st century) has found himself in quite a predicament. Blessed (or cursed) with eternal life, he is on the verge of being discovered and decides he must alter his appearance by switching genders. In the meantime, he falls in love with a lesbian who doesn’t feel the same. Bella was raised in the Canadian wilderness until she was a teen and her father was killed. It is a constant struggle for her to control her carnal desires that manifest themselves in dangerous ways, such as murder. Katerina is a nurse in Dr. So’s Sex Change clinic, where she assists others in making their decision whil she struggles with her own sexuality. Also among these are Helen Printo, a reporter on the prowl for Mozart and who also contributed to the worldwide nuclear crisis via her reporting and Burton, who is trying to find Mozart so he can sell him to scientists and fund his way to Mars. “The Amadeus Net” touches on a variety of relevant social issues and raises questions on every page. How far away are we from computers controlling us? If it happens, do we even have a prayer of retaining power? And what about that nuke situation? For me, Mozart’s eternal life made me question what the world will be like in 200 years. If anything resembling Rayner’s imagination comes true, who knows what the state of the world will be.
Andrew Thomas Breslin’s “Mother’s Milk” attracted me for two reasons. First, I hate milk and have problems with dairy and secondly, because I love a good conspiracy theory. The novel starts out slowly, and I began to think it was all going to be a novel full of jargon and etymology I didn’t really understand but appreciated. But of course, Breslin didn’t throw anything in there without a purpose and it all plays out into a crazy, fast-paced story that the reader can’t put down without anxiously anticipating what is going to happen next.The story follows Cindy Kicklklug, a lawyer and dessert-lover who got involved with the True Foods Project, headed by in an effort to make a living. She quickly finds out they aren’t the most organized group ever, and when the office explodes one day just after she left it, she realizes there may have been more to the project than just a bunch of wacked-out people creating conspiracies. Release the milk thugs and insert Logan, the old founder and lawyer of the True Foods Project, and Eddie, the loveable mathematician who only wants the world to be as excited about his discovery as he is. The general premise – without giving too much away! – involves a group of aliens from the planet Vega that have been trying to control (and inevitably destroy) the world via lactose. The history and etymology Breslin incorporates leaves you wondering what ELSE your history teachers were leaving out. It is also is very reminiscent of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” in it’s style and fast-paced movement with little comprehension of the actual details. But unlike Da Vinci’s secrets, the dairy conspiracy is very relatable and brings up a lot of good points about our society; namely, why ARE we the only species to drink another species milk? And we do we put a bunch of stuff in our body we aren’t equipped to digest? Who decided this? Breslin has a knack for taking something you may have only passed over in thought and making you believe that he may not be far off the mark. He is also a very skilled writer, with the ability to intertwine intelligence, excellent writing, a good story, and TONS of humor all in one novel. I would definitely recommend “Mother’s Milk” for those who possess even the smallest amount of intolerance for dairy and a huge love for conspiracies and good writing.
“Mean Martin Manning” by Scott Stein is hysterically funny and appallingly honest. Martin Manning is an older man who just wants to be left alone. He hasn’t left his apartment in thirty year and has lived peacefully in that time. Of course, nowadays you can’t be a recluse without intervention from supposed do-gooders that want to help you help yourself. They want to make you fulfill your role in society, and that is exactly what Alice Pitney sets out to do for Martin Manning.After a week of his resistance, Pitney sends two “thugs” through his window in the middle of the night, causing an incident that lands him in the hospital. He then must defend himself in court against his fourth grade teacher and former employees, among others, to prove that he is leading a fulfilling life. When the judge sides with Pitney, Martin is forced to endure her self-improvement program along with the other, more willing residents of his building. Through this program, Martin is subjected to having his whole life ripped apart and his apartment stripped to the bar essentials. His diet is forcefully altered for his health so he can be the “best person he can be”. The strain of this on Martin, of course, is very high and he responds to his oppressors in a funny and justifiable way. Martin Manning is an incredibly relatable character and the portrayals of the other characters, such as Pitney and Dr. Karen (presumably the fictional, female counterpart to Dr. Phil) are right on the mark. Stein captures the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of self-help programs (among other societal concepts) that force perfectly content people to do outrageous things. Some people can’t leave well enough alone and Martin teaches them the effects of this until the very end. If you want an entertaining, hilarious, page-turning plot then you should DEFINITELY read “Mean Martin Manning”. It’s engaging, well written and full of laugh-out-loud surprises.