This book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to foc...moreThis book proves that Frey was not a flash-in-the-pan with "A Million Little Pieces." Here he takes the same intense and emotional style turned to focus on the city of Los Angeles and a variety of fictional but very realistic inhabitants. I kept wanting the various little story threads to somehow intersect, which is one thing that drives the book forward. The structure is a neverending alternation between various historical and statistical factoids about the city and various characters, mostly newly arriving in the city and trying to set up a life for themselves. Some of the characters Frey keeps coming back to and building a plot, others you only see once and then never again. It's a bit dizzying and sometimes frustrating but ultimately forms an experience that is gripping and wise. It makes me glad I moved away from L.A. as soon as I did, although the book also makes me kind of want to move there.(less)
This is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and muta...moreThis is the kind of book I just don't want to put down. It's hilarious, a bit scary, profound, and profane. In the middle of fighting zombies and mutants and demons, the narrator throws around some great wisdom as well as some comedic slacker banality. It's brilliant, and once you pick it up and open it to the first page, you won't need me or anyone else to persuade you that it's worth reading. You'll just keep reading.(less)
Kind of like a latino Tao Lin, only not as good. That same sort of opaque narrative voice where you don't get any, or very little, inner monologue of...moreKind of like a latino Tao Lin, only not as good. That same sort of opaque narrative voice where you don't get any, or very little, inner monologue of the characters, just kind of a ghostly relation of events from the outside. Somehow Tao Lin makes this work and often be hilarious and profound, but Zambra can't pull this off as well. (less)
An odd book. A novel that reads a lot like a memoir and probably partially is one, in which the narrator blunders around her life as a young white pri...moreAn odd book. A novel that reads a lot like a memoir and probably partially is one, in which the narrator blunders around her life as a young white privileged playwright in Toronto, making friends and enemies and vaguely struggling to reach some vague profundity. It reads a little bit like something I wish were a female version of Sam Lipsyte's "Homeland" - or maybe it is, but I'm just too male to get it. It doesn't have a clear narrative arc and character development resolution that I kind of instinctively want, and would expect from somebody like Lipsyte or Franzen or the author of How I Became a Famous Novelist, whose name I forget.
In other words, it has that flavor of the modernday creative outcast bumbling around gradually learning stuff, and it's weird and sorta funny, but it doesn't ever... gel as much as I wanted it to.
Probably should be 3.5 stars but I'm generously rounding up.(less)
This book is a comedic satire with an interesting and funny premise: what if some chemical in all the animal products caused non-vegans to turn into z...moreThis book is a comedic satire with an interesting and funny premise: what if some chemical in all the animal products caused non-vegans to turn into zombies? However, in the execution of this idea the thing has lots of problems. I will just list them out: 1. It really should have been better copy-edited, or at all. It's full of typos, spelling errors, grammatical errors, and punctuation errors, to the point where I wonder if the author even re-read his work after writing it, and/or whether he ever passed an English class at a higher level than 7th grade.
2. The book is full of what i call "Portland exceptionalism" - the idea that Portland is some kind of ultimate mecca, different and better in every way. As a former Portland resident that would still be living there if I didn't need more sunshine, I understand the allure of the place, but this kind of attitude is something that keeps getting more and more common and more and more extreme.
3. Besides the poor English errors, it's just, frankly, bad writing. The sentences are very simplistic. The characters and any development they undergo are really obvious, stereotypical, and cliched. The plot is pretty by-the-numbers - at no point do I really worry about any of the heroes or the final outcome, there's no real suspense, since the zombies are so clearly weak, powerless, and easy to kill or avoid.
4. There's some fun humor in the book and great critique of various silly and hypocritical subcultures like freegans, raw-foodists, locavores, and many types of hipsters, juggaloes, and more, but: the book is basically a really overly didactic vegan sermon. Now, I'm sympathetic to the causes and the points made in the book, but it's just painful to read something that's so preachy, especially since there's not much else in the book plot or character-wise to make up for that.
The book is basically "liberal snuff porn" - what if you woke up one day and could finally really shoot in the head all those annoying yuppies and hipsters you hate? - which, as a liberal, I can agree can be fun for a while. But it's not going to change any minds and it's only going to really entertain some smug, simple-minded Portland vegans. If it had been a short story, maybe 10,000 words at most, instead of a novel, some of the above problems could have been mitigated or eliminated. To be sure, if it had been much longer I would not have finished it. I only wish my town still had a smug, simple-minded infoshop that I could leave the book at for some young, earnest traveller kids to find and confirm for themselves that Portland is just as cool as they already know it is.(less)