Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Total Oblivion by Alan DeNiro

Ballantine Books
Scythian warriors in Minnesota? Really?
Unreally. As America gets weirder, genres are collapsing into each other. Westerns set in space, zombie private eyes, vampire porn.
But Scythians?
In this teen novel, 16-year-old Macy has the life so familiar to our own children from TV: the mall, the branding, the whole culture. Then the world changes, and her family are refugees.
Happens a lot
But not usually to Americans. Ancient Scythian and Thracian warriors ride in, giant wasps sting people who turn to paper and die, bizarre plagues sweep the land. Fast-food joints are the only restaurants left open.
Dystopian stuff
Nearly as dystopian as what we’re living through. All speckled with brilliant stories. Example: a coal miner finds a diamond. Inside is Satan’s head. Satan says “Bring me to the surface and you can have one thing.” The man agrees, and he’s never heard of again.
It sounds a bit - uncentred?
That it is. A lot of the time DeNiro is having fun telling tall tales and riffing on the tropes of American culture. But it’s fun.
Tropes? Eh?
Cultural metaphors. Like Macy’s family take a riverboat for St Louis, a la Huck Finn. Her dad has a job waiting for him in the astronomy department. (He then turn his hand to astrology - handy in the new dispensation.)
And family life?
Macy’s brother Ciaran turns into a tangler who fixes deals between all the factions; her sister gets sold into slavery; Macy and her mother catch the plague. Life, you know.
Healthy children’s reading?
Not if you’re concerned about drug use and foul language. But for older teenagers and those who can distinguish fiction from reality, it’s a rattling yarn.
The author?
DeNiro’s first hit was with a strange little book of stories, Skinny-Dipping in the Lake of the Dead and he runs the Goblin Mercantile Exchange blog. One to watch.
Author's site

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