Reviews by Hereward L.M. Proops
It’s easy to appreciate a clever writer. One who is capable of using a few choice words to paint the most vivid of pictures. Or someone who is able to capture the subtle nuances that make up real human personalities. Or a writer whose tight plotting and careful pacing holds you spellbound until the very last page. As keen readers, we’re all able to name at least two or three books that blew our minds the first time we read them.
But what about the silly books? Books whose sole purpose is to be frivolous, mindless pieces of entertainment. Books to be read in one sitting on a wet Sunday afternoon after a few too many glasses of cheeky Cabernet Sauvignon at lunchtime and then forgotten as you drift off into a semi-drunken stupor. The sort of book that you find hugely enjoyable but never openly admit to liking in intelligent company. Books with a cover so idiotic and puerile that you try to hide it in your lap when reading it in a public place. I’m talking about cheap, disposable trash… the sort of book that your Kindle was made for.
My Day by Jones: the cat’s eye view of Alien by Anne Billson
The first of the three dumb little books I’m looking at today is Anne Billson’s witty tribute to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror, “Alien”. Regular visitors to the site will be well aware of my undying love for the movie and won’t be surprised to learn that I sought out this little gem as soon as I learned about its existence. Available for 99p on Kindle, this short story retells the story of the final voyage of the Nostromo from the perspective of Jones, the ship’s cat.
Being a cat, Jones is totally egocentric and has little affection for the humans on board the ship (or “tinopeners” as he calls them). As the hideous xenomorph is brought onboard and begins picking off the humans one by one, Jones sits back and watches the proceedings with utter detachment. It is this total lack of empathy for the victims of the alien that makes this book so amusing. There are moments when it seems that the cat holds the humans in such low regard that he actually appears to be rooting for the alien. However, his hunch that the xenomorph is some kind of giant ugly hairless kitten leads him to side with the humans, but only because he worries that there is only enough cat-food onboard the Nostromo for him. His irritation with Ripley when she forces him into the cat-box as she evacuates the doomed ship is marvelous and Jones’ description of the final confrontation between Ripley and the alien is delightfully cynical.
It is clear that Billson took great pleasure in taking the high-tension plot of the movie and turning it into something laugh-out-loud funny. Obviously, those who haven’t seen the original film won’t really understand or appreciate this retelling of the story. At about 12 pages long, it won’t take long to read “My Day by Jones” and some might question whether a single short story is worth 99p. To make up for the short length, Billson bundles the first four chapters of her 1993 vampire novel “Suckers” with the short story. Despite not lasting as long as I would have liked, I found “My Day by Jones” to be a witty, affectionate tribute to one of my all-time favourite films.
How I Created Katie Hopkins by Adolf Hitler translated by Barry Sausages
Now this is one that I can only recommend on two conditions a) you can download it for free and b) you have a strong stomach. Those of you reading this outside of the United Kingdom might wonder who Katie Hopkins is. Think yourself lucky. Don’t bother googling her name or trying to find out more about her. Remain ignorant of her existence, you’ll be happier that way. In fact, if you haven’t heard of Katie Hopkins, just take my word for it that she is a deeply unpleasant person who appears to relish notoriety. Leave it at that and move on to the next section of this review.
Those of us who live in dear old Blighty can’t help but to have heard of Hopkins and have witnessed her somewhat desperate attempts to remain in the public eye. It’s like she decided that if she couldn’t be universally popular, she would rather be universally despised because at least that way she’s been noticed. She’s like an emotionally neglected child who would rather have negative attention from her parents than no attention at all. The flurry of outrage that surrounds this loathsome individual whenever she opens her mouth is, unfortunately, exactly what she wants. Every celebrity condemnation of her ridiculous opinions; every tweet about her, both good and bad - it all boosts her public profile and gives her a wider audience.
Barry Sausages (I’m fairly certain that’s not his real name), seems to have hit on the best way of dealing with Hopkins… if you can’t ignore her, write a short story about her where she engages in a sex-act with the twentieth century’s most loathed figure. Yes, you read that correctly. The book is about twelve pages long, roughly eight of which are devoted to describing Hopkins and Hitler’s frenzied intercourse in eye-watering detail. The remaining four pages involve time-travelling assassins, Eva Braun and Russell Brand.
At £1.99, it is incredibly hard to recommend purchasing this very short ebook. I’d feel cheated had I paid half that price for something that could be read beginning to end in a couple of minutes. I was able to get hold of a free copy and it made me laugh louder and harder than I have for quite some time. It’s filthy, puerile and in the worst possible taste. If you aren’t offended by it, then there is probably something wrong with you. Of course, just like Hopkins herself, that is precisely the author’s intention. I’ve read some pretty dumb things in the five years I’ve reviewed for Booksquawk but this one takes the cake. Approach with extreme caution.
Wolfcop: Fleshmob by Brad Munson
One of last year’s most fun films was the Canadian horror-comedy “Wolfcop”. A B-movie tribute to those dreadful straight-to-video gems that were inexplicably popular in the 1980s, “Wolfcop” told the story of Lou Garou, an alcoholic cop in a small town who transforms into a werewolf after being cursed. Garou’s new lupine powers enable him to become a better cop and uncover a conspiracy instigated by a group of reptilian shape-shifters. The daft storyline was made more palatable by some goofy practical effects and a generous serving of over-the-top gore. “Wolfcop” was never going to win any Oscars, but I found it entertaining enough to purchase a copy of this spin-off ebook as soon as it was released.
“Wolfcop: Fleshmob” is a sequel-of-sorts to the movie and sees Lou Garou investigating an outbreak of strange and incredibly violent flashmob-style dancing in his local mall. Before long, the lycanthropic policeman is caught up in a wild adventure revolving around musical mind-control, sinister corporations and a sexy goth extreme-wiccan who is adept at both hacking computers and tossing magical hexes around. Like the original movie, “Wolfcop: Fleshmob” is not meant to be taken too seriously. At 153 pages, this novella is the longest of the three ebooks reviewed here by quite a long way, but at £4 it is also the most expensive, perhaps even a little over-priced. Just like the film, the story manages to cram in a decent amount of action and gore whilst squeezing in a few knob-gags for good measure. It’s never hilariously funny, nor is it gripping enough to keep you awake all night reading but Munson’s prose is snappy enough and, at a few choice moments, the dialogue is reminiscent of the firecracker exchanges of a Joe R. Lansdale novel. However, this ebook is let down by more than its fair share of clumsy spelling mistakes and one gets the impression that it could have benefitted from a more thorough edit before being unleashed on the world. I’ve seen sloppier ebooks, but not at such a high price.
Despite these minor grumbles, I found it easy to get swept along with the pure unbridled silliness of it all and I will probably read Lou Garou’s next adventure, should it ever happen. The film didn’t get the publicity it deserved and so it remains relatively obscure, not even popular enough to deserve the sobriquet of “cult film”. This novella is even less likely to gain popular acclaim but I have no doubt that fans of “Wolfcop” will find plenty to entertain them here.
Hereward L.M. Proops