Saturday, November 26, 2016

A novel called BEEF

My friend Mat has written a novel, and as a good buddy, I have to do a review because I think y'all should read it too. (Plus coz he wants to know what I think.)
It's called BEEF, and it looks like this from the outside:

But why should you read it?

To begin with - it's funny. If you've ever read A Conspiracy of Dunces by John K. Toole, you'd recall that book was very funny, whilst saying not all that much, with brilliant characters that jump off the page and annoy you. Mat's book is very funny, with well-written characters who don't annoy you - but he also has something to say.

It's a satirical sci-fi novel, so that means most female readers are out. But it's a satirical love story too - which means most male readers are out. That leaves either those identifying as neither - or as not human. Mat's novel, if ants could read - would make him a jillionaire.

Okay, so love story first. Straight up I tell you I'm no romance novel reader, the last (and only other) romance book I read was Wuthering Heights - and I threw that book right the fuck across the room (the only other book of that distinction being American Psycho - but that one grossed me out, yay!).

Not a fan of romancey stuff - I always want to skip over those bits - be it books or films. Having said that - this is a romance novel for bros. Dudes. Guys. Men, that is. At least it feels that way - a lot of it takes place in the protagonist's head (the titular Mr.Beef), who wonders and ponders about what if and how to get romantical and sexy with a woman he meets at a party. Problem being he's happily married, has a daughter and he also has big-time (plot-relevant) responsibilities.

Does he? Don't he? Will he? How will they? - these are all the questions and I shan't spoil it, but as Mat put it, "Can an affair be non-physical?" Which is the meat and potatoes of the novel, and poses some interesting dilemmas (dilemmae?) that are cogitated upon by our Mr.Beef. (Oh my god, this is really a book about a man thinking... there's a subgenre for ya!)

Speaking of meat and potatoes - meat is where the sci-fi kicks in. The novel is set in a not-too-distant future where meat is grown in vats in factories, and animals are no longer bred for food. Yes, Mat is a stinking vegan hippy, but don't let that put you off if you're thinking of being put off. The world he offers up is certainly no Jehovah's Witness' paradise with lambs laying down with tigers and/or smiling Aryans, oh no. 

The tigers are for Aryans only - everyone else gets to pat mutant two-headed koalas.

Here the released cattle have mutated and have become terrifying nocturnal beasts, pollution is still an issue, corporations are dominating every-goddamn thing, the media is infinitely worse than now (that'd be infinity to the power of infinity - which is infinity actually) ... Utopia this ain't. Which I love about this book - it makes plenty of points along the "meat is murder" line, but it doesn't stray into hysterical ranting territory. But it does speak against the meats - so if you're a hardcore carnivore, I guess that rules you out as a reader. (Meaning if ants could read - Mat would be back to square one.) It cleverly stays philosophical (pretty sure Mat's middle-name is Cleverlyphilosophical) whilst piling up some facts, letting you make your own call, but nonetheless with an agenda. But I emphasise - all without getting preachy or obnoxious. You may disagree with Mr.Blackwell and that is okay - it's your sodding problem. Meaning you should read this novel if you're a meatasaurus (I am), because his hypothetical future is a very interesting take on the whole issue - it works, but it's not without problems, because we're fucking humans. You savvy?

Instead it's an intriguing read (will they? won't they? [wait, is that intrigue or suspense?]), a very humorous read (the bits about the music industry had me laughing aloud on public transport), a thought-provoking read (the climax of the novel and Mat's somewhat nightmarish predictions for aforementioned music biz and the media), and a read with spelling mistakes, but you know, whatevz.

Now Mat wants you to know that this book is character-driven (or maybe he doesn't), and yes, his characters do come alive. Human, so human - they get confused, angry, happy, they have secrets, they have family complications and jobs and opinions of each other, histories and beliefs... (Oh man are there some amusing cults in this one!) Me being an anti-social nerd (I seek the anti-Buddha in everyone) and possibly border-line Aspy, I can't say I liked any of the characters (well, maybe Reginald and his wife, both Depressarian cultists) - but that's not Mat's fault, they are actually nicely fleshed out and - oh fuck me why aren't there spaceships in this novel?!!!! There I said it, I like books with spaceships.
Let's move on.

The writing style reminded me of Douglas Adams' Hitch-hiker's Guide series (those books had waaaay more spaceships Mat, take note), a jokey, almost conversational telling with the occasional hilariously placed profanity (I point this out because it works so well), the casual slip from high-brow novel wording to just bumbling ... um... looking for words... sheesh! Fuck! Fucking sheesh! - you get the idea. Great stuff.

So there ya have it. I don't know if I sold you Beef well or not, but I'm certainly glad I did read it - like I say, it was a fun read, and pour moi an eye-opener of a love story (or is it?) from a man's p.o.v. that wasn't all about "T&A"; and about those thought processes that are like a school bus balancing on the edge of a cliff... Think Lost in Translation, but not exactly...

And there's all kinds of things about this novel I haven't mentioned because they would be spoilers. "Can an affair be non-physical?" - asks Mr.Blackwell (yes, the Mat guy I been talking about). Read the sodding book and find out. It's funny!!!

Get it cheap as chips from here:

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