Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: further adventures

I finished this book last night just so I'd be able to write about it today.

I picked it up some time back. It sat on a table at some bookstore with some other stuff that kind of caught my eye. There's a super hero on the cover with his head cropped off. AND! And at the bottom of the cover there's a recommendation by Douglas Adams.

Extraordinary... The novel that's intrigued and surprised me most this years.

More than anything else it was him that sold the book to me.

The book is written as a suicide note. At times you'll see the capitalization and punctuation go a bit strange, as if it were the note instead of an edited book.

The suicide note is being written by Ray Green. He's an elderly man who has just failed as a super hero. Once upon a time, back in the age of radio, he was the voice of The Green Ray on a radio show of the same name. It ran for more than a decade before it was canceled. That was the high point of his life.

But recently there was a power outage. For the first time in a couple of years Ray walked more than the two blocks near his house where he gets everything he needs. He saw a woman running from a couple of thugs. He started to walk away, but thought better of it and went to the rescue. He got thrown in the car with her, but eventually they both got away.

What happens next could be read a few ways.
Back when he was the Green Ray he took the role a bit to seriously. Even then he talked as if it were really him doing those deeds instead of just reading into a microphone. Has age addled his mind so he thinks he really was a hero?
Is he lonely and bored and have nothing to lose?
Or did he just like the feel of helping someone and want to help some more?

He puts an ad in the classifieds offering his services as a hero for free. He gets five initial responses. He won't help those who need money. Two others need help he can provide. The fifth is the woman he rescued and she's used it to track him down.

Those weren't just punk kids looking for a good time during a power outage who were chasing her. But is she using him as a patsy for her own schemes? Is she fleeing the mob? Is she a victim of a plot within the FBI? Who is coming for him at the end? And how did it go so wrong that he's gonna commit suicide at the end?

This is a reprint of a book originally printed in 1993. One interesting bit is that it features a group similar to the current Minutemen Project. Those are the guys who patrol our side of the Mexican border and catch illegal immigrants sneaking across. But the Minutemen didn't exist in 1993.

I should also point out that the author, Jon Stephen Fink, is working on a book called "The Return of the Green Ray". So maybe Ray doesn't actually die shortly after the last page of this book.

So, despite what I thought when I picked it up, this book isn't a super hero book. It's not a humor book. Parts drew me in so I didn't want to put it down. Other parts didn't. What it is is a story about an old man just trying to help. Just trying to do what's right according to the Green Ray.

Overall I liked it. It's not on my Must Read list, but I think you'll like it. I'll be looking for the next one.

p.s. The back cover has a blurb from "Terry Bisson". He works for "Book World" from the Washington Post, but I've seen some of his short story writing, too. SciFi Channel has his story "Meat" on their now defunct "Seeing Ear Theater". You can also read it at his website.

No comments: