Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review : Anonymous-9 - Hard Bite (2012)



Pre-Order HARD BITE here

(also reviewed)
Order THE 1ST SHORT STORY COLLECTION here

There's a terrific place in Santa Ana called Helping Hands that trains monkeys. It's a national nonprofit, serving quadriplegics and spinal-cord injury victims with high quality, highly trained helper monkeys. That's not where Sid came from.

The story of how Anonymous-9 became Anonymous-9 is rather funny. Basically, it's the pen name for well-respected freelance editor Elaine Ash, who was afraid her writing was too twisted and cynical. That is would damage her reputation. Since then, the Hard Bite short story came out, was declared awesome in literary circles, awarded prizes and cleared any sort of doubt around Elaine Ash's talent. Everybody loves what she did. But the pen name stuck (it's kind of cool, to tell the truth) and HARD BITE evolved to become a novel, published electronically by U.K underground powerhouse Blasted Heath and soon to be released in paperback by New Pulp Press. If you thought the short story was crazy in itself, there is a whole other level of crazy here, that will redefine your perception.

The wheelchair-bound avengers we all learned to love already has a name: Dean Drayhart. He also has a mission: cleanse the city of the greatest urban calamity since the black plague, hit-and-run drivers. Dean and his homicidal monkey sidekick Sid work with such passion and dedication, they're pretty good at what they do. One variable they didn't take into account;when you kill people, they don't just fade into oblivion. You set up a chain of events that will grow bigger and more out of control as the bodies keep falling down and piling up. People are starting to ask questions. Both the police and the "victims"' families are investigating on their end, to find answers to seemingly nonsensical murders. If you want to sell HARD BITE to a friend without spoiling anything, tell them it's about a cripple turning Southern California upside down.

I have a soft spot for revenge stories with no higher purpose. When there is no moral grounds beyond getting even. I find it frees the story of its didactic function, which you know by now is a huge pet peeve of mine, and shifts focus on characters and visceral motivations. What's great about Dean Drayhart in that regards, is that he's angry at a concept. The only way he could ever feel satisfied is if he would be given his life back, but since he's wheelchair bound and not getting better, murdering hit-and-run driver has become like chain smoking to him. He just cannot stop. Dean is addicted to getting even. That makes him a tremendous, broken lead who is both hilarious and understandable. His motivations almost come off as admirable, given what he was put through.

Vigilantism is a response to the failure of law enforcement. The vigilante bridges a gap between  violation and justice, a perp and his punishment. It's nothing new. I'm nothing new. 

One thing bugged me about HARD BITE and it got quite in the way, sometimes. It's a short novel (not quite two hundred pages) and it has a proliferation of voices. I didn't mind the individual voices, I thought the Orella and Maria segments were hilariously overblown and fit the novel's atmosphere quite well as detectice Doug's segments were more derivative. But it's the frantic pace the novel keeps switching between one another that blurred it all together at some point. While I loved that it kept switching between first and third person, having two third person narrations that kept switching was, I thought, rather confusing. Doug's segments would've had more breathing room without Orella and Maria and well...without Doug's segments we would've had more Orella and Maria and it would probably have been even more enjoyable? Conundrum!

Truth to be told, I would've taken two hundred pages of Dean's first person narration alone, but I understand how draining it must be to write such a lively, booming voice. HARD BITE was like reading a crime epic on cocaine, which was perversely enjoyable. Everything got big, violent and out of control super fast and it only got worse. If you're looking for gritty, stark realism, go elsewhere. HARD BITE has nothing for you. If like me you've been through the gritty realism routine before and are looking for something that challenges everything about it, then you're in for some serious sun. HARD BITE is a highly visual, fuel up, hyper novel that you will probably read in one or two sittings and probably enjoy a whole lot too, given that you have a sense of humor about crime fiction. Given that you have any sense of humor at all, really.

3.5 STARS

4 comments:

  1. I think most people like stories with morally grey characters, but I especially love the anti-heros. Sounds like a good read.

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  2. You'd be surprised how many people prefer the white knight in shining armor. I don't though and I loved Dean. Just his physical brokenness is a great starting point and the spiritual awakening he has after the hit-and-run that left him paralyzed is a thing of beauty.

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  3. Hi guys, thanks for the comments. I just saw this was up and now I'll go and Twitter...
    Elaine

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  4. Sorry, my bad, Elaine. I should've given you a heads up.

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