Triggers: Gore, Violence, Strong Language, Mental Disturbance
Hello lovely people of the internet
As you know, from time to time I put together small reviews of local fiction that I manage to shake enough time out of my work-week to read.
I sort of missed the bus on Fletcher, but am doing my best to make up for it. I’ll explain a little more about both transgression and remedy after I’m done chatting to you about the book, that is on Friday when we wrap up our Fletcher 2 parter.
Fletcher is an interesting thing that, for me sits squarely at the crossing point of several genres. It was published in 2014 by Fox and Raven, a local small press whose continued existence is hard to verify from internet tracks and trails. Its fairly common for small or independent publishing houses to struggle in this country. The terrain is pretty rough right now, has been for a while and isn’t looking to smooth out anytime soon.
But Fox and Raven and the ever talented David Horscroft, gave us Fletcher. Before I carry on with telling something of what I found the book to be, and whether or not its the kind of book for you, I want to clarify what this book is not. This is not family reading. This is mature content, adult-themed and fairly well complemented with triggers. Not just is this not for children, its not for every adult and the review will discuss a little why, and whats in it for the adults who are not going to be perturbed by its content. If you are feeling fragile about the world today, or if any of the listed above stirred up some lingering unpleasantness for you, then maybe shelve this review for the time being. There’s always another time when you’ll be feeling more like exploring dark territory, and the world will inflict enough unasked for discomfort without you getting any extra from this blog.
See, Fletcher isn’t ‘not for kids’ in the same way that Deadpool is ‘not for kids’, its something much darker, and for me more valuable. Much as I love our merc with a mouth, and appreciate what he has done for the world of superheros and societal dialogue, the constraints of franchise and funder pull him back from certain edges.
Fletcher tap-dances its way along those edges.
Here is the final disclaimer before I give you the low-down: this is my response to the book, and the things of value that I found in the words. If you’re a writer you will know that readers can sometimes find things for themselves in your work that you had no intention of putting there. There’s something of that going on here, as you’ll see this Friday when I release an interview that the author was kind enough to give me. Here’s my take though:
So Fletcher is ultimately a story about people.
When the inner chaos and dispassion and shadows inside the mind of a person who fulfills a higher-order need by hurting others bleeds out into the world, you get the dystopian, near-future setting of this book.
When I say Hurting, I mean Hurting, this book had by far the highest body count of anything I have ever read in any genre fullstop. This book broke new literary territory for me in terms of torture and death, gore and dispensability and it did it pleasantly.
Now, its entirely possible that being a modern youth (a modern gaming youth no less) I am as violence-desensitized as they come, able to flick off things that by all rights should fundamentally disturb me. That aside, this book was pleasant. The narration was witty, the character full of the range of smart, shallow, exhausted, elated, frustrated and victorious that a round character should in my opinion be. Of course, they lack empathy in the glaring totality that my pop-psych reading tells me psychopaths do, but that means that they aren’t really perturbed by the swathe of horror that follows in their shadow like blue birds follow the more domestic Disney princesses. Fletcher does unlikable (that is sort of the worst kind of understatement) things in a likable manner: with snappy one-liners, a consistency to their own rule set and way of being in the universe, the capacity for change in response to events and a deep-seated honesty about their own nature.
Mebbe the fact that I found that in this character says more about me as a person than it doesn’t, but I don’t think so.
I think a lot of the emotional affect a reader picks up is informed, not by what happens in the world of the book, but by how the characters in the world of the book feel about it.
What happens when your emotional guide to to how to react to the world is, and you’ll pardon my french here, psychologically fucked? What happens to the reader when your POV character has no problem with unspeakable acts of horror against multiple fellow humans?
An answer to that question was what made the book stand out for me. Less gazing on monsters and more realizing the limits of that label and the limits of the power of that label on a round character, who rails against following a traditional narrative flow.
So, if pushing your tolerance of gore, trope-breaking and proximity to a dark and twisted protagonist are what you are feeling like at the moment, then perhaps this book will give you some of the worthwhile mindbends it gave me, and a damn fine story along with it, in terms of craft, flow and …hem… execution.
For the record this is one of my top local genre reads in terms of craft and style: clean, sharp and engaging.
If you are not feeling like facing humanities darker aspects, or a world mostly on fire, on your own ability to laugh at things that simultaneously and very seriously horrify you, then I’d say steer clear right now, or test-read a few pages and see how you fare.
To get you hands on a copy of this book for test-reading and purchase purposes, come and visit me at a popular gaming and geek culture event that my advertising schedule tells me I’m not supposed to reveal I’m going to till wednesday.
On an unrelated note, ICON is happening later this month. I may be able to tell you more about that on wednesday.
On an even less related note, I found this nifty link for ticket to ICON.
See you Wednesday.