Cal Lyte, a gun-loving venture capitalist, is tired of paying alimony to his ex-wife Tabytha. Plotting to blackmail her and derail her campaign for Congress, he enlists the help of their daughter's boyfriend, British academic Reid Seyton, to unearth some Lyte family secrets. But the results turn out to be more than anyone bargained for, in an escalating cycle of revelations that will leave nobody's life the same.
I just joined goodreads specifically so that I could recommend this book. I devoured it in 3 days and bought a second copy for my dad (I don't want to lend him mine).
I love the way James Warner invented these characters that were both extreme and perfectly California--from the gun-loving Silicon Valley venture capitalist to the chain-smoking Romanian shrink (now a Berkeleyan --of *course*).
The book is told in first person--by two polar opposite characters: the aforementioned VC and a British grad student (and colleague of the aforementioned shrink). The VC is so staunchly conservative, he's to the far right of Michelle Bachman. The grad student is British (which means he that doesn't think that "socialism" is a dirty word). The Brit's dating the VC's daughter, the VC's ex-wife is running for Congress and both protagonists have a vested interest in sabotaging her bid.
Guns, extreme politics, and ex-wives against a backdrop of California eccentricity. It doesn't get more entertaining than that.
This novel manages to hilariously satirize a wide number of social scenes (libertarian wing-nuts, ivory tower theory heads, Silicon Valley strivers)without ever misrepresenting them, an impressive achievement. Better yet, it combines the narrative drive of a political thriller with the psychological insight of literary fiction. Plus, Warner can turn a phrase.(I might have wished for fewer minor characters to keep track of, but that's probably just because I'm slightly brain damaged.) This is one of the few novels I've encountered that addresses America's mad stumble towards crypto-totalitarian high tech barbarism without becoming didactic or depressing. Bravo!
All Her Father's Guns follows Cal Lyte, a Libertarian in a long-running feud with his ex-wife. When she decides to run for Congress on issues that Cal is diametrically opposed to, Cal decides to do everything he can to stop her being elected. To help him he turns to a number of people, including his daughter's British-born boyfriend, Reid.
Cal and Reid narrate alternate chapters of the novel, and have very different approaches to life. Cal is the all-American go-getter, who believes he can acheive anything he puts his mind to, while Reid is a slightly bewildered academic, experiencing problems in both his personal and professional life which he finds hard to deal with.
One of the book's major themes is fatherhood. Cal was an absent father when his children were young, but after the death of his son he tried to make up for this by being over-protective towards his daughter. Reid isn't ready for fatherhood, but becomes so over the course of the book.
All Her Father's Guns is extremely well-written. It's super-smart, snappy and clever and I couldn't help but be impressed. The story was a little meandering in parts, but it never really lost its focus, and was full of colourful characters who enriched the narrative. It also had a first-class ending, which had an element of surprise but was a perfect fit. However, I was surprised that the author came to someone like me for a review, as I'm about as far from the book's target audience as it's possible to get.
Firstly, I'm a woman. Now, I know this is a contentious thing to say, so please feel free to disagree with me in the comments section. While most books written by men can be enjoyed equally by both sexes, occasionally a book comes along that has been written in that strange blokey universe that women just don't get, and I'm afraid this was one. The obsession with guns, the buttoned-up emotions, just the whole style and feeling of the book felt like an alien man-place that I couldn't settle into, and the female characters weren't developed enough to help balance things out.
Secondly, I'm British, and this was a book that had American politics as it's main subject. I barely know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, and the issues that American voters get worked up about just don't figure in British politics at all. Subjects like the right to bear arms, abortion laws, the importance of psychiatry and fundamental Christianity all featured heavily in this book, but they have almost no relavance to a British reader. It's interesting that the author is originally a Brit, and one of his main characters is British. In fact, my favourite scene in the novel is one where Reid stops off to look at London Bridge, which was transported stone by stone to become a tourist attraction in the US. The feeling of being an outsider in a foreign land was something I could relate to and if there had been more of these kind of scenes I'm sure I would have enjoyed the book more.
All Her Father's Guns wasn't for me, but if you buy a copy for your American uncle, who's intelligent and interested in politics, He may very well think it's one of the best books he's ever read.
As someone who has grown up in northern California, I have to start out this review by complimenting the picturesque and accurate descriptions of so many well-known and lesser known places in northern California. This book has a great story but its representation of northern California alone make it a worthwhile read for those that know the area. It's great to see Silicon Valley and the Bay Area as the setting for any TV show, film, or book, so seeing it so well represented in this story really added to the book's appeal for me. The setting aside, the story is filled with dry humor about everything from politics to the behavior of the stereotypical American citizen. The wit from the characters flows well with the wacky plot which constantly turns the story on its head as new discoveries are made and wild events occur. There is a certain point in the book where the story just turns on a dime and the reader gets pulled into the fast-paced plot. Until you reach the last page, you are hit with explosion after explosion of plot twists which make for a very enjoyable read.
The fast-paced movement of the story really comes together in the end, but at the beginning of the book, it made for slightly choppy reading. I suppose I had to get used to the in your face way that the events in the book are presented, but in the beginning it made it feel like the events were just thrown together without time to let the reader take in what is happening. The only time the pace slowed was during the descriptions of the setting, which brought a welcome pause. Up until a certain point in the novel, the story feels like it jumps all over the place while trying to get in all the information about the characters and their past.
I was a little weary at the beginning of the book, but as I said, you reach a point in this book and the plot swerves on track and sets up for a great read. There are so many things that are done well in this book and there is a great story buried under an awkward start. I would definitely say that this book has some characteristics that set it apart and make it a novel worth checking out.
*I received a free copy of this book for this review from the author.
'Do Americans talk so loudly because they're afraid God can't hear them?'
James Warner doesn't miss a beat - or any opportunity to both slyly and confrontationally present the foibles of American dynamics. Even his choice of names for his characters carry enough suggestive weight to define them even before we know who they are. The apparent 'in' for this young writer is the fact that he is British born and living in the US who has taken advantage of his bifurcated allegiance to unveil some absurdities we may not have noticed before. He makes his opening character (Reid Seyton - no, not pronounced 'Satan') an academician in Theory who is living in Berkeley (of course) with his girlfriend Lyllyan (?named after EU-Steamwheedle Cartel?) whose father Cal Lyte (that one is pretty straightforward) heads the Vigilance Ventures and is a gun lover venture capitalist seeking a way to diminish his alimony payments to his career politician, right winger ex-wife Tabytha 'gazelle' and the moniker becomes quite apparent as the story unfolds), and Viorela , Cal's Romanian cigarette-addicted therapist. But enough about this single aspect of Warner's genius.
This story is an unmitigated farce, the kind that only the most intensely clever writers can create. Warner takes his exquisitely drawn parodies of stereotypes and tosses together a salad of an adventure that tinkers with philosophy, academia, gun control, the machinations of politics, irreverent pairings of disparate characters, right to life issues, abortion, and criminal investigation techniques, the extremes of political right wing AND left wing factions, and in the end provides a mirror for us all to do some serious self-examination - in addition to laughing so hard that reading a page becomes almost unfeasible. The real factor of success of this book is that it can be so rich in face and parody and still support a story line that is strong enough to hold our attention without the embroidery of the writer' comedic talents. James Warner is a bright new voice in contemporary literature, so refreshing that the reader will likely be passing this novel along to friends to spread the wealth!
First the good news: I like the cover. It has a bit of a noir feel to it. I like the contrasting red and black, the font and text layout, and I even like the feel of the paper cover, which is thick and almost velvety. Very decadent!
Now for the bad news:
I am not a fan of this book. Quite simply, it left me confused and unsatisfied.
At nearly a quarter of the way through the book, I found myself still totally clueless over what it was about. It seemed to be just a lot of rambling minutiae about the characters’ daily lives, and I'd been unable to discern any actual plot.
This is a book with ADD. It is all over the place, rambling and scattered, and without much structure. I found myself totally lost. If this were a book of average length, I may have put it down and marked it “DNF” (Did Not Finish). However since this book was under 200 pages, I felt that I had to try to finish it, and see whether or not it made sense in the end. (It didn't.)
Confusing, scattered and ridiculous, there was still a hint of some insane genius underlying it all. I kept feeling as if I just drank some of that hallucinogenic “shroom tea" that teens in this area brew and drink after a night foraging in the cow pastures, I might actually get this book and wind up thinking it was a brilliant read!
Occasionally there would be a passage that I found striking in its imagery. But overall this book just wasn't for me. That isn't to say that it was "bad". It was written by an obviously bright and intelligent individual, if a little "off-kilter", but the writing style was too "out there" for me. I just couldn't follow it. Maybe it's 30 years without any drugs in my system that has done me in.
Snappy writing and a great sense of humor are the draws for this book. The humor is not going to be for everyone (think of Chuck Palahniuk's type of humor; not for everyone but it's right down my alley) but for me, it was spot on. In fact, I would liken this book to Palahniuk's writing if he started writing about politics. Now this is a really highly honored comparison for me as I'm a huge Palahniuk fan. Warner has a great sense of humor and makes some really keen observations through his characters about the state of politics in the United States.
This book has a great story line and is totally irreverent and I liked it. The characters aren't exactly likable. Some of them are a little full of themselves. Some of them are more than just a little ridiculous. Some of them are flat out crazy but they make for a great story that will definitely keep you engaged. The characters are definitely not role models and this is by no means a morality play. Warner shows, rather than tells through the characters how ridiculous the political world is. I read this book at a particularly timely time with everything happening on the campaign trail right now.
This book will not be for everyone but if you have a good sense of humor (if not a bit off kilter) about things, this one is for you.
Somehow, James Warner manages to skewer both ends of the political spectrum and mock Americans & Europeans and dim-wits & intellectuals with equal measure AND both entertains and prompts self-reflection -- all without being trite or too clever.
I laughed, I cringed, I felt sad, I felt chastened, I bit my nails, and then I laughed and nodded my head and wished I had ever written something this smart and tight.
Anyway, the Father of the title is Cal, a gun-toting libertarian capitalist American doing his best not to pay his ex-wife any alimony. The Her is Cal's daughter Lyllyan, an apple that has fallen much farther from the tree than Cal realizes. In between is Lyllyan's boyfriend Reid, a British intellectual who can't find a job in academia and who is generally at odds with American life and letters.
All these people are a mess, and charming, and believable; people who would be fascinating to watch across a crowded room but tedious to work with -- or live with. The cover is brilliant - a shimmering gun-shaped pool. Dive in. It is smart and crazy fun.
Came for the author (a friend), stayed for the increasingly awesome read.
The author successfully delivers a novel in which narrative doesn't take second place to social commentary, satire, and clever writing writing. If anything the lightness increases the impact of the emotional material. After all, the narrative takes place in 2002, after 9/11 but before the invasion of Iraq. The catalog of past and present hurt and loss is immense but not melancholy.
I found myself seeking out this book to finish it. I usually listen to podcasts on my mass transit commute, but this book demanded attention. I found myself reading it while waiting for friends for drinks, riding up the elevator, all the usual place I never read.
Why only four stars? The book switches back and forth between two first-person narrators. I felt their voices, while distinct, were not distinct enough. Sometimes, when opening the book after a break in reading, I had to reorient myself.
Cal is a venture capitalist obsessed with guns and hopelessly in love with his Romanian dominatrix of a therapist. Reid is a British-born graduate student in the Department of Theory at Berkeley, studying the socialogical implications of cinematical errors in Casablanca. Reid also happens to be dating Cal's daughter. In addition, Cal's ex-wife, Tabytha, is running for Congress on the ultra-crazy-conservative ticket and attempting to squeeze Cal for all he's worth. When Reid is laid off from Berkeley he turns to Cal for employment. From there it's a strange ride through blackmail and abortion clinics, politics and illegal arms deals. It's fun, it's strange, and it's a little bit silly at times, but it all works out in the end. Reid turned out to be much more likeable than I'd expected, and the ending was surprisingly satisfying. I look forward to reading more from Warner.
"...Some of the comments about the book on the back cover mention All Her Father's Guns as a satire - and I can definitely see that. It just ended up not being for me. Politics was never really my thing (and the book ended up focusing a lot more on politics than I guess I expected), I don't keep up with corporate structures, and I couldn't relate to or connect with any of the characters. I wish I had been able to get into this book, as it did pique my interest when I received the offer of it, but I just wasn't able to get into it.
If you are someone who is fairly interested in things like politics and corporate or political philosophy, I think you may want to give this one a go, because it might be more up your alley than it was mine..."
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Simply put, Cal can’t stand to pay alimony to his ex-wife Tabytha. Neither of them can’ let go of the other even though they have been divorced for a while. Cal comes up with the brilliant idea to get his daughters boyfriend to dig up some dirt to mess with Tabytha’s political career.
I’m sorry to say this, but this book was not for me. Although I can agree with some of Cal’s opinions, he was just too over the top. The rest, I guess I have to admit that I don’t follow politics and who stands where and who is radical over what enough to really get into this book. It lost me at the beginning with the grumbling over lunch and how much it cost.
I guess I’m just not on the same page, even though there are a ton of reviews that say this is the best book ever. Give it a try, you may find it more suited to you than me.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed All Her Father’s Guns very much. It is well written, engaging and quite hilarious. The author created some memorable characters who are very sympathetic despite being eccentric and nutty. Many scenes are set in the Bay Area which gives this novel a local feel. It is a great satire on right-wing American politics, the gun worship and the take-no-prisoners venture capitalism of the Silicon Valley. Although I was not very keen on multiple twists and turns of the plot, I can see how other readers might consider such plot as a merit. I strongly recommend reading this book, it is time well spent.
I'm really happy to have read James' book. Clever, fast-moving satire on everything from the world of academic deconstructionist/psychoanalytic theory to Libertarians. This is a fast, enjoyable, well-written read. The publishing world is crazy--this easily could have been put out by a bigger imprint and found a wider audience. So I'll do my part in promoting it in this DIY way. I'm sticking to my new policy of not giving star ratings to books by people I know, but if you're in the mood for a funny contemporary social satire, pick up All Her Father's Guns.
All Her Father’s Guns is a quick bit of entertainment, one that might have been stronger with the focus given to just a few ridiculous elements, rather than a hundred. While I would not say it’s been one of my recent favorites, I still enjoyed reading it. Knowing what we do about the current election climate, the book’s election concerns are somewhat nostalgic relief.
Well, I really, heartily enjoyed this book. James Warner has a wry sense of humor and a sharp, wise take on contemporary, uh, life in the SF Bay Area and these United States, graduate school, right-wing capitalists, American mores if there is such a thing, and, uh, did I mention a very wry sense of humor? Pay attention to that wry sense of humor and you will pick it up; it might even rub off on you. To paraphrase our president: You should read this book. You should read this book now.
A must read for anyone who loves satire. Any and every subject social and political that may heat up a conversation is chewed up and spat out in this really well written story. In less than 200 pages James Warner manages what many cannot in twice as many pages.
I think it mostly came down to characters though. What I got out of it is that we may not be the way we see ourselves and some people are just bat shit crazy.
All right, this was a quirky and clever read. Pretty funny also. But the humor in ALL HER FATHER'S GUNS resides in the structure and the confrontation of ideas. It's a highly conceptual novel and therefore it's not for everybody, because the plot is really subjected to the ideas Warner gets through. I liked it. I thought humor was a very smart way of comparing academic and capitalist lifestyles, their respective strengths and weaknesses. Cal Lyte's pearls of wisdom are quite the showstopper.
Great satire, the book got better and better as it progressed. I found myself laughing out loud by the end. Very refreshing and witty. Smart and well-written, it's action-packed with great twists and excellent transitions.