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A Little More Human, Fiona Maazel, Graywolf Press, 2017, 346 pp
As my fellow readers know, I like to read all kinds of books in all kinds of genres. I especially like the younger female authors who are taking on the world-in-flux where we now live. Ever since I read her second novel, Woke Up Lonely, Fiona Maazel has been right up there near the top of my list.
The Los Angeles Times reviewer of this current novel said, "Imagine a situation comedy written by Philip K Dick or a telenovela penned by Thomas Pynchon." I didn't want to write down what I thought as I read the book (she writes likes a man) because that seems so conflictedly sexist, but Jim Ruland did it for me.
Fiona Maazel does the magic trick of creating completely unlikable characters that I grow to almost love. Phil Snyder and his equally wonky and hapless wife are two of those. Phil works as a nursing assistant at his parents' bleeding edge biotech research and rehabilitation center, SCET, where wounded soldiers and sufferers of brain disease receive experimental surgeries. On the side, Phil also has a weekend gig impersonating Brainstorm, star of a movie about a telepathic crime solver. The joke is that Phil can actually read minds but he can't solve the many crimes encircling his life.
Why did his wife turn to SCET for artificial insemination without telling him? How did his mother die? Is his current BFF Ben a true friend? And how the hell did he wake up one morning on the back of a horse, hungover, and covered in blood and semen? Did he really rape a woman while drunk?
This is a deep dark thriller that mines some of the horrible crimes going on at the fringes of modern society. The humor is black. The prose is relentless, jagged as a rapier in rapid action. As in her former novel, I spent the first half of the book crippled with doubt about why I was reading it, but I finished the book in awe. On Twitter I said I was left mentally gaping.
(A Little More Human is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)