Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: Currently Untitled (Book 2 of the Darwinverse) by Ian McLeod

See my review of McLeod's novel here.


Source: Amazon.com.

The quality of "Currently Untitled" is such that I don't feel a need to pad my review or give an extra star or two because I know the author personally.

Currently Untitled is a third-person omniscient narrative mainly following the existential crises of the forty-something Angus Agnew Pilcrow Anderson. Angus stumbles along the line between the Baby Boomer and X generations, throwing extravagant parties in his suburban Chicago McMansion, bedding ex-girlfriends from high school, paying alimony and child support out of his overflowing bank account (he made his money in real estate) while he bangs away at what he believes will be the next Great American Novel, though every indication from the narration indicates his manuscript may find better use as toilet paper.

Angus's inflated self-image and cliched response to pretty much everything are not lost on the omniscient Hardy, who highlights through a unique deadpan writing style the absurdities of the American Dream as it manifests itself in white men born in the sixties. Angus is a frustrating character to read because he is an idiot in the ancient Greek sense of the word - totally selfish, self-absorbed, self-concerned. I hated Angus after page three or so. It's a telling (and subtly brilliant) fact that his two children are never named.

The story is redeemed of Angus's idiocy by the humorous and variegated cast of characters: Nat, a goth-punk barista and Senator's daughter; Don, Angus's lovable neighbor who says "man" a lot and drives a tank around Arlington Heights; Carrie, Angus's much younger cousin and a one-time sidekick to the newly-famed author John Darwin; and Darwin himself, the nihilistic title character of the series who unwittingly becomes Angus's rival in the literary world.

Currently Untitled reads like a the love child of "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Lost in Translation," and "Fight Club." The story highlights the absurdity of materialism and the vacuums left in many white men's souls after the collapse of modernist materialism and the housing bubble. Most of the characters function as foils to Angus. Don is similarly rich, but you'd never know it from how he talks and dresses. Nat is carefree and thoughtful. Carrie is selfless and caring. Darwin is actually a good writer.

The plot is a series of Postmodern adventures and misadventures climaxing with a confrontation between the acclaimed John Darwin and the irrelevant Angus Anderson. The story ends abruptly and appropriately after about a hundred pages, and sets the stage for what promises to be an interesting sequel starring Darwin.

The Good: Humorous, short, and sweet. The work may be self-published, but it doesn't feel like it.

The Bad and Ugly: The main character is a jerk, and if you don't understand that the author is using Angus as a microcosm for certain veins of American society, you may not have the patience for him. The style, content, and diction of the book would certainly resonate within a niche market, but I'm not sure this book will ever see popular acclaim. Self-publishing to maintain artistic and intellectual integrity was a wise choice on the author's part.

Finally: You can find the book here.

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