S.T. Cartledge's Reviews > The Morbidly Obese Ninja

The Morbidly Obese Ninja by Carlton Mellick III
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Jul 02, 11

bookshelves: bizarro, reviewed
Read from May 16 to 18, 2011

I've read quite a few Carlton Mellick books by now and from what I've read of his older stuff, I like his older - more experimental stuff - and his longer books, more. I started out with Satan Burger and Punk Land and then worked my way to Fishy Fleshed and Warrior Wolf Women, the Egg Man and a few other titles, and since then I've been keeping up with his new releases and occasionally backtracking to an older book.

My reason for liking stories like Satan Burger, Fishy Fleshed and the Egg Man is because I'm a sucker for a good narrator. The aesthetics behind the mindframe of the narrators in those books is what really sucked me in. With stuff like Warrior Wolf Women or Zombies and Shit, the focus is more on what the story is about, rather than how it is told. Which Mellick still manages to make interesting, by shifting the focus from character to character. With shorter stories, it becomes harder to do this. His last book before this, Crab Town, works with the shifting focus thing, but the Morbidly Obese Ninja doesn't (well, not so explicitly).

Sure, I like some of his books because of particular styles or attributes, but the Morbidly Obese Ninja just works despite it being one of Mellick's less radical (technically speaking) books. It's short, it's wild, it's fun. And therein lies the key to Mellick's writing. Sure, I love his books where characters can see outside themselves, or think in shapes, or have heightened senses, and I feel those are his really special stories, but at the core of all Mellick stories there is the weird, the wild, and the entertaining.

The Morbidly Obese Ninja is about a morbidly obese ninja who works for a major corporation, guarding their secrets and infiltrating the competition. There's floating buildings and iKatanas and anime plastic surgery fads. But there's something else in his writing that takes his books beyond being just entertainment. It's a well known fact in movies that you can't just start a film with a bunch of wicked explosions and end it with a bunch of wicked explosions and fill the middle with a bunch of wicked explosions. If you strip away the massive ninja fighting other ninjas and consuming copious amounts of food, there's a strong story underneath. He's fighting with other corporations over a human child/safe which holds valuable information that will revolutionise the industry. He needs to protect the child and the secrets within him from his bloodthirsty adversaries.

As the book progresses, we get to know the characters, and while the Morbidly Obese Ninja sounds kind of superficial, Mellick's storytelling skills breathe life into the bizarre world of Neo Tokyo and in amongst the furious ninja battles, a heartfelt story unfolds.
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