Written by: Josh Black
First and foremost I think I have to start this review with a question: What the hell is this? As I was reading it, three possibilities came to mind.
One: The drunken ramblings of a total psychopath.
Two: A metaphoric, symbolic satire examining contemporary American society and culture.
Three: An outright wild, fantasy adventure played completely straight.
The novel could be any of these or all three combined. Possibly none of them. I just wanted to get that out of the way because, really, it doesn’t matter all that much. It’s a dense book in the best possible way, and I found when I stopped wondering about the reality of its events, I just enjoyed being taken along for the ride.
High school kid Guy Boy Man is the protagonist, an utterly unreliable narrator and an anti-hero if ever there was one. He’s a pirate, self-appointed spiritual leader, and a bit of a jerk, really. He’s also a character with one of the most singular voices in fiction I’ve ever come across. In the three-page long opening sentence, upon discovering that he and, by extension, the rest of the world, are prisoners in his parent’s basement, the stage is set. Guy Boy Man “wakes up” and the adventure begins.
There are zombies, but if you’re looking for a generic zombie novel or a grand scale, fluffy popcorn read as the title would indicate, look elsewhere. The zombies are essentially the ones pulling the strings, the ones with money, power and control of the world. There’s a standardized test called the ZAT through which successful students are indoctrinated into the ranks of the undead and unsuccessful ones remain human (zombie food). Faced with this grand injustice and the knowledge that he himself is bound to fail the ZAT, Guy Boy Man takes it upon himself to end human suffering by ending human reproduction. No people, no zombie food supply.
From here we’re launched into a surreal and delightfully psychotic story peppered with an endearing cast of characters. There’s Baby Doll15, a pink-haired girl perpetually trailed by a unicorn (a sporadically hyperviolent one at that). There’s Sweetie Honey, a well-endowed ninja whose girlfriends are a group of genetically engineered, behaviourally modified Eastern European girls. We also have Mike Hawk and York Hunt (oh yes), Guy Boy Man’s ever-present personal demons.
The writing style, like the characters and story, is unique and very kinetic. It’s stream-of-consciousness and really gets you into the mind of Guy Boy Man (which leads to what could be some very uncomfortable territory for those who are easily offended). By turns clipped, meandering and quite beautiful, the prose itself is a good reason for fans of literary weirdness to dive right in. I also appreciate the telling-not-showing thrown in to uproariously comedic effect (an early scene with a centaur just did me in).
That said, what may drive some people away is the novel’s uncompromising irreverence. To put it bluntly, there’s something in this book to offend almost everyone. For myself I was cracking up regularly throughout, but I can certainly see some others putting the book down and not looking back. Either way, I’m sure Marshall will find the right audience for this. We are out here. And we’re clamoring for more.
The Good: Great for thoughtful people who aren’t easily offended.
The Bad: Horrible for any people who are.
The Ugly: The image of a laughing penis indelibly imprinted upon my memory.