Ian's Reviews > Slam

Slam by Lewis  Shiner
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Jun 11, 2008

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Read from October 14 to 16, 2013

The title is a skateboarding term, although the protagonist, Dave, is not a skateboarder. But it’s also a pun, see, because Dave is an ex-con and has just been released from the slammer. A lawyer friend has arranged a caretaker job for Dave, looking after the house, and twenty-three cats, which belonged to a recently deceased eccentric old lady – her property can only be sold once all the cats have died. It all seems relatively straightforward, but then where would be the story in that? There are people who want the old lady’s house – the head of a UFO cult, and a pair of old and slightly batty treasure hunters. One of Dave’s friends from prison escapes and comes to stay – and while he’s there he arranges a large drug deal. Dave’s parole officer has taken against him, and seems to be looking for an excuse to send him back (he was in prison, incidentally, for tax evasion). And Dave gets involved, via an eighteen-year-old barmaid, with a bunch of slackers and skateboards who are squatting in a nearby eccentric house, which is built entirely of concrete, including the furniture. Slam is equal parts paean to slacker culture and lonely white male identity crisis. In places, it feels a little heavy-handed, the central relationship is a little too much like authorial wish-fulfilment, and in parts the prose feels like it’s reaching for Dhalgren without actually getting there… but there’s also well-handled cast of eccentrics, the description of place is good, and it’s all very readable. Not Shiner’s best book by any means, but he’s still an author well worth reading.
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