I’ve mentioned on the site before, but I have a real fond place in my heart for the writers of Cracked. When I was in high school the site was kind of everything I loved. The site’s blend of information and comedy was exactly what I was into, and I adored learning things from the site. So of course I’ve been really excited to see some of the early writers from the site branch out and try their hands at novels. And, for the most part, they’ve had great success. These writers have honed their comedic chops, and story-telling abilities on Cracked and then have created some really inventive and hilarious novels. And David Wong is no exception. His writing on Cracked, and his appearances on the Cracked podcast, are often my favorite additions to the community, and I was really enamored with his first novel, John Dies at the End. That book was a lot of fun, and I really need to get around to reading its sequel one of these days. But, instead of checking out that book, I decided to read his latest one, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, after hearing it get talked about on one of the podcasts that he was on. And, well, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.
The novel takes place in the not too distant future, where technology has progressed a bit from where we are, and society has regressed. People have self-driving cars, holographic phones, and cameras hidden on their persons that are constantly transmitting footage of their actions to the public. And yet, all of humanities worst tendencies here on the internet in the current day seem to have been amplified tenfold, creating a society of aloof sociopaths. But the actual plot of the novel follows a young woman named Zoey Ashe who lives with her mother in a trailer park in Colorado. She has a sad, unfulfilling life until something insane happens. She’s attacked by some lunatic with metal jaws who seems dead-set on killing her. And the reason why is pretty shocking. Turns out that that Zoey’s dad, who she just thought was a deadbeat con-artist, is actually ridiculously wealthy, and basically runs this ridiculous town in Utah called Tabula Rasa that caters to rich lunatics. Oh, and he’s just died, leaving everything to Zoey. But Zoey isn’t going to be on her own in this, because Arthur’s gang, the Suits, are there to protect her. At least until they get what they need from her. Because they’re baffled about why Arthur chose the daughter that he barely knew and not one of them.
So Zoey comes to Tabula Rasa to be with the Suits, and their constant attempts for her to give them her inheritance. They’re Will the brains of the operation, Andre the funny one, Budd the cowboy, and Echo the competent one. And for a while it just seems to be Zoey getting used to the ridiculous extravagance of Tabula Rase while trying to get out of there as fast as possible. But a wrinkle to that plan arrives in the form of the novel’s villain, Molech. Molech is a faux alpha-male douche bag who has gotten his hands on some cutting edge technology that essentially gives him superpowers. However, there’s a flaw with the technology that can only be fixed with some programming that turns out to be Zoey’s real inheritance. Arthur was apparently investigating this technology, tying to keep it out of the hands of criminals, and has earned the ire of Molech and his gang of idiot bros. And the rest of the novel is just a series of skirmishes between the Suits and Molech’s gang. Zoey and the Suits start to bond now that they have a common foe, and Molech and his gang get more and more violent, trying to escalate their war and get the abilities to become unstoppable.
I really wanted to like this book. I love a lot of the concepts in it, and I’m usually a huge sucker for humorous dystopias. But there was something that just rubbed me the wrong way, almost the entire time. And I think one of the biggest issues was that the humor just didn’t work for me. Typically Wong’s humor is more subtle and in my wheelhouse, but there was just a sense of middle-school humor that hung over the novel. But even beyond that, the structure of the book was pretty lacking. It developed a weird formula about halfway through, and just kept repeating itself at that point. We’d see the Suits and Zoey come up with a plan, try it, fail, go back to Arthur’s mansion, come up with a new plan, rinse, repeat. It just got a little tedious, having the exact same things happen again and again. Which is a bummer, because there were some great ideas in the book. The setting of Tabula Rasa, with it’s insane opulence and foundation of basically just being a world where straight white dudes could do whatever they wanted with no repercussions, was an intriguing one, and rife with satiric potential. The novel also had some really interesting perspectives on internet culture, and the way human act when given anonymity, which I’m sure is something that Wong is very familiar with being a writer on the internet. But all of that felt squandered thanks to the meandering plot and the juvenile humor that the novel contained. Which was pretty disappointing. But hopefully this was just a bit of a fluke, and Wong will get his mojo back for his next novel, because he really does seem to be a better writer than what we got from this story, at least to me.
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits was written by David Wong, 2015.