Book Reviews of The Edge of Life and We Are All Completely Fine (plus a bonus)
The Edge of Life / Joe Hart
Synopsis - A mysterious vanishing man shows up at the door of an everyday family man and instructs him to "trust." But why should one stranger trust another? Turns out Mr. Vanishing knows things. And has supernatural powers (beside the vanishing thing). And likes to play games. And now Mr. Family is minus the "family." Mr. Vanishing wants (the former) Mr. Family to kill and kill and kill again... and to trust that all the killing will restore his family to their former living state with a bonus to boot. But why, and how? Nevermind, just "trust"...
Reaction - This fast-paced quickie firmly gripped my attention for the one hour it took me to read it. Given the brevity of the book, the characters were well-developed. The brutality was sure and swift. But why was Mr. Family chosen? And through what mechanism did Mr. Vanishing play his game? A puzzling premise with an equally inconclusive conclusion.
Recommendation - Read this book for a quick and gruesome thrill.
We Are All Completely Fine / Daryl Gregory
Synopsis - A psychotherapist with a gift for groups gathers a bunch of torture survivors as a pet group therapy project. As the sessions progress, details of the tortures emerge. And it seems the psychotherapist has motives other than therapeutic meetings. The group members are all deeply interconnected... literally. And when tragedy strikes the survivors again, unbelievable secrets are laid bare as bones... literally.
Reaction - I enjoy reading and writing about the intersection between the (perceived) realm of the supernatural and the (perceived) realm of the psychologically disturbed. So this book steadily held my interest from start to finish, including a couple long passages of occult rituals. The characters were a rag-tag bunch of misfits banded together by a secretive psychotherapist with a hidden past that I did not see coming. The interaction of the troubled group members was believable, endearing, and sometimes humorous. A bit heavy on the woo, but with a scattered ending that was strangely satisfying.
Recommendation - Read this book to explore the intersection of the supernatural and the psychologically disturbed.
Steal This Book / Abbie Hoffman (bonus)
Synopsis - Why you should and how to lie, cheat, and steal your way through a fascist Amerika in the 1960s. A handbook on how hippies can safely and cheaply organize, demonstrate, and protest. Tips and tricks of effective rioting, revolution, and domestic terrorism. A plethora of ways and means to liberate food, shelter, clothing, education, medicine, and entertainment. This is the "fuck the system" hippie Bible. Some methods are outdated; some, I'm guessing, would still work.
Reaction - This book is a time capsule of the Amerikan 1960s counterculture. Both my parents were hardcore hippies hanging out at Haight-Ashbury in the mid to late 60s. Turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, to paraphrase Timothy Leary. And so it's in my genes to steal (love) this book. Deep down, I suspect I'm a hippie too, albeit a more peaceful one than Hoffman. In its debut, according to Wiki, this book was rejected by at least thirty publishers. So Hoffman published it himself. "(This) book initially received no reviews and was not advertised in any of the major newspapers." But in eight months in 1971, this book sold over a quarter million copies. Good news for any struggling aspiring writer...
Recommendation - Steal (read) this book if you're a former hippie wanting to reminisce about the good old long strange trippy days, or if you want to educate yourself on the historical Amerikan hippie counterculture.