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Boring Video Game Brought to Page,
This review is from: Donnybrook (Paperback)
I picked this up while on a trip to Indiana, mainly because when I travel I like to read fiction set in the area I'm visiting. The book's premise also caught my attention -- various colorful characters make their way to a famous annual bare-knuckles cage match tournament where the winner takes home $100,000. Unfortunately, despite it being a quick read, it's boring -- mainly because there is little to differentiate any of the characters or their actions.
I have no issue with violence in film or fiction, and have enjoyed plenty of pulpy bloody action stories on screen and page. However, this book is and endless succession of hard men beating the living **** out of each other (and sometimes shooting, stabbing, clubbing, etc.), when they're not buying, selling, or using crank, or engaged in some other equally "shocking" activity (the lone female character of significance is meth-fueled sexpot). Various people have grudges against others, owe each other money, need to mete out revenge, and soforth, but there's nothing remotely engaging about any of it.
Actually, what it sometimes most resembles is a video game where one can select from one of about six or seven characters and has to fulfill a series of missions in order to make it to the big showdown. The guy running the titular tournament even has a lair, minions, and associates, just like a video game "boss". The amount of punishment people can take in this book contributes a lot to the cartoony feel -- this is the kind of book where people who are shot will start yelling stuff like "You <effing> shot me -- I'll <effing> rip your liver out and fry it for breakfast!" (not an actual quote, but you get the idea), rather than scream in pain.
I guess some readers could be fascinated by the portrayal of the hopeless poor underclass of modern America, but to me it came across more as poverty porn than anything else. (You could, I suppose, read it as all a big allegorical critique of modern capitalist America, but that's a more generous interpretation than I'm willing to give.) The prose style is also kind of abrasive -- there are a lot of sentences and turns of phrases that are ostentatiously ragged. Every now and then, there's a nice turn of phrase or twist of vernacular, but for every one of these, there are nine others that feel overly calculated.
The book also features a very light line of the supernatural via one character, and references to this being just the start of something bigger. So I guess there's going to be a sequel, but I certainly won't be reading it.