This book is great. I bought it on a lark, on a random recommendation and read it simply because they said the author wrote well. What a great choice.
Early in the book I was convinced this was 5-star material. 5-star means classic to me. 4 star means the story is solid enough to be worth re-reading, or it is just damn well-written. This book is both.
The author is an unusually clever writer, and one hell of a sketching storyteller as well.
The protagonist, Disciple, is a mess. He is smart, clever, cynical, and great fun to wander through this story with. His observations are wry and witty. The characters in this story are mostly fun. With the exception that the women are a bit one-dimensional, which makes sense here though because that's how the first-person Protag seems to view women.
There are many, many, clever, catchy, and downright LOL phrases in this book. It has been years since I have highlighted a non-biographical, or non-philosophy/psych book as much as I highlighted this book.
This is a man's book -- for men. I tried to read parts of it to my mother, and a 91 year-old lady that lives with her, and they found it boring. (Yet they both liked "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo")
So why not 5 stars? Only for a few reasons, most of which would probably be ignored by most readers:
1. The ending felt a bit weak and contrived. The book was sooo good up to this point, and then the ending fizzled into unmemorability/unbelievability for me.
2. Some of the wonderfully-clever phrases in this book are temporal - like his reference to the "Obama of the Cult World". Fun, funny, clever, but won't stand the test of time to make this a classic.
3. The protagonist is a war-vet, gun-toting badass. Who doesn't know anything about guns. The protagonist starts the book with a "colt automatic pistol" and yet, several times while carrying the gun on his person, or in his car - it turns into a "revolver". Perhaps the author was going for some Mickey-Spillane type feel with his gun descriptions but I find it unlikely that a vet of the first Gulf war on would:
+ call a 1911 in 45 ACP a "Colt automatic pistol". That's so 1930's.
+ probably even carry a Colt (brand) 1911, unless that was all they could find
+ triple-tap to the head. Assuming he had the skill to pull off a one-handed triple-tap with a 45; the bullet-catching recipient would likely collapse after the first round unless the bullets deflected off the skull.
The protagonist hails from the unfree-state of NJ, and notes how hard it is to get a handgun in NJ/NY. Which isn't entirely true. NYC, yes. Expensive, yes. Hard - not unless you have a criminal record. (edit/update: I have since looked into handgun laws in NJ and while the author exaggerates a bit they are indeed draconian compared to the rest of the free states)
::Plot Hint possible Spoiler::
And why didn't he just ditch the barrel? Removal of the barrel renders a 1911 forensically useless, and the barrel is trivial to replace. Maybe because it was a union-made Colt 1911 from the 80's, and he knew it wasn't worth keeping? :)
4. The protagonist is a martial-arts badass. War vet, boxer, etc. Yet, when faced with Uber Badass Nazis, pulls out his.....Aikido? The author calls it jujutsu, but I don't know of any jujutsu where you take a man down by one arm and "remain standing calmly". That's Aikido nonsense (and bad Aikido at that). He should have been at least kneeling on the Bad Guy holding an arm or shoulder lock.
It would have been much more believable if, somewhere in the book, he had properly beaten the crap out of someone, instead of just talking about it, repeatedly, and with bravado. And then when the times comes for him to be a Bad Ass - he winds up pulling out completely pussy, un-real-world-workable Aikido. Bleh.
See? I told you most of my complaints are petty. :)
Complaints aside - this is a solid story from a very clever and talented writer. I highly recommend giving this a spin!