Top critical review
There Are Some Outsiders You Just Can't Back
7 April 2013
Considering this is a short book, a novella in fact, I found it even more surprising that, though I tried very hard with it, I had to give up 78% of the way through (sorry, but that's the ugly way we Kindle readers count our progress through books these days). Ordinarily, I wouldn't dream of opining on a piece of writing that I'd failed to read to the end, but I put the blame here squarely on the shoulders of the author, Justin Carroll. So offensively poor, so irritating, so obvious, so shallow was the content, I had no choice but to end my relationship with this story, for fear of losing my will to live.
Never mind the protagonist being an anti-hero, this was an anti-book, it had no drama, no meaningful observation, no poetry, no characters, and so no reason to care for any of the 2-dimensional people who populated its pages.
Indeed, the author wishes us to take the protagonist's mental journey, where he attempts to save the entire population of the planet from the destructive clutches of a faceless group of Corporate bad people, and I regret to admit, I found myself egging these evil corporate baddies on, just to make it all stop, not unlike that famous moment, where the audience member, at a particularly awful rendering of the stage play of Ann Frank, failed to suspend his disbelief any longer, and shouted to the Jackbooted search party, "She's in the cupboard!".
If I am to be kind, I'll say that, if this were a short story, then there's an idea here somewhere, not a strong premise, but an idea, and one that could give the painfully repetitive description a chance to be meaningful. However, it isn't, and with the repetitive description repeating itself ad nauseum, it wasn't.
So our anti-hero is some kind of socio-psychotic character, the invisible IT guy at the office who harbours paranoid delusions, where the world is out to get him, and yet he is their last hope. This is helped along by his dreams of a post-apocalyptic earth, which he interprets as prophetic visions. Unfortunately, these dream sequences are just as dull as someone telling you their dreams in real life, and we feel that we know there is no real jeopardy, because the plot is set in the past. I'm no historian, but I'm going to put my neck out here, and say that the human race didn't die out any time in the last few decades.
Carroll throws the reader a bone when he introduces a female character, who has romantic feelings for Stan, the anti-hero. We soon discover that Stan's warped mind twists her perceived interest into something more sinister, and this endangers the poor girl's life, so we're given the 'will he/won't he?' part of the tale, and arguably the only uncertainty the reader can latch on to. However, the female in this piece seems to be written by a man who has no understanding of, not just women, but why anyone is attracted to anyone else, rendering the whole 'relationship' unbelievable.
Still I persevered, then the 'will he/won't he?' question was answered. At this point the reader has the right to experience some payoff, just for sticking with it. NOW you'll see the first glimour of character growth, some shift in gear, tone, direction! Of course the reader is wrong, and the prosaic plodding through an unhappy and alienated man's mind continues.
And once I realized this, I just had to give up. There was nothing left in my soul that could urge my thumb to press that button on my Kindle, nothing could entice me, not even my low-level masochistic enjoyment of deferred gratification. I was insulted, let down, and I may have been developing a rash at this point, so it had to go.
For me, the worst of it was that I truly feel that I 'got it', I understood what was being attempted, in fact that was part of the problem. If you want a disturbing disenfranchised, loner anti-hero experience a la Camus, then I suggest you read Camus, because he did it right.
If there are any interesting twists beyond the point I moved away from the book, it doesn't matter, that simply means the author didn't give enough character, nor decent foreshadowing to make any ending worthwhile.
Truly haven't read anything worse.