Monday, August 22, 2011

100 Books 45 - Patrick McLean's UNKILLABLE

MAN, I tore through this one once I got started; I could have finished it in one night were I not newly motivated by the awesome game HealthMonth to stick to my bedtime. As it was, only the thought of losing life points got me to tear myself away from my Kindle for the night -- nicely ironic because, well, look at the title.

And indeed, the protagonist of Unkillable has become so, but only after being brutally murdered with a screwdriver. I'll attribute to this sad fact said protagonist's rather annoying repetition of the refrain "how screwed am I" since really it's one of only a toddler's handful of flaws in this macabre romp of a novel.

Unkillable borrows an old chestnut from comics and the movies, the hero who has to solve his own murder (see Deadman, Haunt, The Mask, etc and ad nauseam) but turns it ever so slightly on its head to make it feel fresh and fun. Our ne'er do well, Dan, knows perfectly well who killed him and dispatches the killer's accomplices with gleeful abandon almost immediately after coming to life (via another hoary old chestnut, the pact with the Devil, in this case, a Rat), but getting to the bad guy himself is another story. Of course.

But what sets Unkillable apart from the run-of-the-mill revenge tale isn't the supernatural trappings (though the voodoo stuff is fun), but McLean's voice. McLean is a scotch-swillin', wise-crackin' sonofabitch, and it's his cleverness and wordplay ("how screwed am I" repetition aside) that propelled me through the story. He's a craftsman and a humorist and his prose is a pleasure to read.

Funny as he is, though, McLean shines, too, in more serious and emotional scenes, where he comes through with unexpected depth and wisdom -- unexpected not in that I don't expect it from McLean, but that I wasn't prepared for it in this tale. What has been a fun, snarky romp finds a real heart and center about 2/3 of the way through, so that by the end I cared as much about Dan's fate, and that of his companions (an apprentice undertaker [who lets Dan drive the hearse, yuk yuk] and a reluctant voodoo queen) as I did about anybody in a certain set of GRRM doorstops. And those fates -- I did not see those fates coming.

And that's why I picked up my Kindle again, first thing this morning, and tore through almost nonstop to the end. And then tore through to give it five stars on GoodReads.*

And then started hoping for a sequel.
*This from someone who hates bestowing stars.

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