During the second of my week long summer vacations I watched Mission Impossible: This Time More Impossible Than The Last. I didn’t enjoy it one bit, and neither did anyone else in my extended family. The effects were great, the action was solid, and the acting was, considering the material, top notch. The problem was the immensely stupid writing.
Hollywood regularly puts out idiotic and insulting trash. I’m sure that doing better is possible by almost anyone with a functioning brain. I can’t imagine it being possible to crap out something worse than Velma.
However, criticism is easy, writing is hard. It may not be difficult to surpass Strange Worlds (with AIDS), but entertainment needs to of a certain quality in order to justify its existence, and that quality can be elusive. I found that out the hard way when trying to write my own mostly non-comedic novel, which I aborted halfway through the prologue. You can read that here.
I don’t think it’s outright terrible, but considering the enormous time investment I was hoping for a lot more. Similarly, my non-comedic first submission in an Antelope Hill competition wasn’t really up to my standards. Again, it wasn’t terrible, but it ended up not surpassing the “worth reading,” bar, in my opinion.
On the other hand, I am very proud of my satirical entry into the latest Antelope Hill competition, even if they disqualified it for being a bit too risque. I also love my “50 Shades of Oy Vey: Diary of a Horny Lampshadocaust Survivor,” parody, and I don’t think I’ve written a Rake Rapport that I don’t feel proud of, being especially fond of the Lindsay Graham one. Similarly, the fake CPAC interview between Charlie Kirk and Kyle Rittenhouse is one of my favourite all time pieces.
Everyone has their own voice as a fiction writer. Mine appears to be dialogue heavy satire, with more serious works largely falling flat. Part of that is technique and familiarity. I think that I write far too much dialogue in scenes that don’t need it, as if I’m writing a screenplay instead of a novella. The other part is simply the voice of the author themselves, and the potential mismatch between them and their writing.
I say all this to explain the trepidation that I felt when someone I knew reached out to me and told me that they had written a short novel under the pseudonym Lance Biggums. He asked me if I would be interested in reviewing it, and I told him to send me an electronic review copy, not expecting much.
I was fairly unimpressed with the book cover. I still am, and think that a book of this quality deserves something better. Nevertheless, I can forgive a barebones and somewhat generic cover for a self-published book. More damning is that the worst part of the book is the prologue. It’s brief, but entirely unnecessary and honestly fairly mediocre. I was mildly unenthused about reviewing the entire book after reading it, but luckily for all of us, the book picks up immediately from the start of the first real chapter.
It’s difficult to describe the novel’s genre, but I would say that it’s sort of like a photo negative of a rom com. Instead of the story being about the boy, Aron, getting the girl, Stacy, the boy gets the girl quite early in the story.After that, their shared nightmare begins.
We see the story through the contemptuous eyes of “Marlon,” a notorious gossip who ends up in a tryst with Anita, the antifa-tier friend of “Stacy.” He’s morally grey at best, and plays only a small part in the story. However, he’s funny and relatable in an easy, careless way. Below we have an excerpt from early in the first chapter.
On Friday the professor had us get started on a stupid little group assignment that was to be completed by the following Monday. I made sure to get myself into a group with two girls, a little Asian one that was doable, and a tall dark one that might have been doable if drunk.
It’s difficult, due to formatting issues, to get excerpts from the book, but I’ve always felt like excerpts are more powerful than me just saying “this is bad,” or “this is good.” That’s why I went into such great detail on Rangz of the Kangz. I don’t want to say “the writing is bad and illogical,” and have you trust me. I want to go through that pile of garbage on a line by line basis and spend over ten thousand words making fun of it.
Similarly, I don’t want you to simply trust me when I say that the writing is quality. Here’s a much longer excerpt from the opening chapter.
Luckily for Stacy, she had the luxury of not having to go into debt to get her hobby degree in English Literature. Her forward-thinking parents had saved up enough money in their RESP to put their only child through school with no student loans. By my understanding, the RESP had plenty enough for books and tuition, and enough left over for pocket money as well, so that daddy’s little princess would even be spared the shame of having to spend her weekend nights dancing on sweaty stages littered with twenty dollar bills.
I know this because I overheard Aron complaining to her about making ends meet, and asking her where she got most of her used textbooks from.
“But they’re not used…” she answered him, perplexed at the assumption.
“What do you mean?” he asked in his reedy voice, perplexed at her perplexity.
“I bought all of them new, from the bookstore. The newest editions. Got them before classes even started. Ugh, but now that I’ve changed my schedule around so much, I’ve got four that I don’t even need, and I have no idea what to do with them.”
Aron scrutinized her then for a couple seconds, taken aback by her privileged naïveté. Clearly this was the moment when he first became aware that, while he was by no means poor, Stacy evidently came from a few rungs higher on the socio-economic ladder. She didn’t even try to get used books or old editions, and hasn’t even tried to sell the ones she doesn’t need, he must have thought to himself. It was likely his most direct and profound experience of class-consciousness to date, and the first in which he was not looking down at those below him with a vague and misplaced sense of guilt. He smiled at her, and shook his head incredulously.
“Wow,” he said, “all new books, eh? You must make really good money from your part-time job then.”
I clenched my teeth when I heard that. I knew that he knew perfectly well the money didn’t come from any part-time job, or else Stacy would not have so blithely parted with it; he was goading her into admitting that she had rich parents and they were paying for everything. And she did.
“Yeah, kinda,” she said sincerely. “Well, I’m a bar waitress at Sleazy Tom’s, just Friday nights. But that’s just for spending money, like extra, you know? My parents saved enough to pay for my whole degree and then some.”
Aron whistled. He tried to whistle cowboy-style, in that way that says “well, how ’bout that,” but it came out too weak and too high-pitched. Still, the gist of the sentiment was conveyed. He must have felt a certain pride in the fact that he had to work to pay for his own degree, and had to save money wherever he could. Evidently he decided to play up the slight class difference between them, doubtless imagining there was a sort of Lady and the Tramp romance to it.
“You sure are a lucky girl,” he told her patronisingly. “Meanwhile I’m pulling eighteen, twenty hours a week at Screen-tan Gaming Shop, surviving off ramen and instant coffee, and the only half-decent beer I can afford is PBR.”
“Oh, I love PBR,” she cooed cordially and sincerely. The self-pitying point Aron had tried to make must have been entirely lost on her, and she genuinely just wanted to tell him how much she liked to drink ironic beer – either that or she got the point, but tactfully ignored it and changed the subject. Either way, the conversation was effectively derailed, and they went off on a tangent about some BYOB welcome back party that was coming up at one of the more straight-laced frat houses.
Aron, for his part, seemed to find her seemingly sincere, innocent naïveté about her own economic status charming. Everything about her seemed to charm him. He gazed at her as they talked and laughed, a love-struck smile gushing from his pointy face. He even went so far as to almost mirror her movements, pushing up his glasses just as she reached up to adjust her own. If it had been genuinely unintentional and unconscious, it might have been sort of cute, but I have a hard time believing he didn’t do it on purpose, which makes it impressively sophisticated for a man with Aron’s limited social skills, but also a little creepy.
I am not a talented enough writer to entirely explain why I enjoy this so much. On more than one occasion I found myself snickering despite there being no obvious punchline. Sometimes the book is outright hilarious, usually it’s simply steadily amusing, and at some points it turns into a gripping page turner. I did not expect there to be so much tension, nor for the story to take such a dark turn. At times it takes on the sort of “I can’t look away” feel of watching two trains barreling towards each other, narrated by Mitch Hedberg.
And of course, there are plenty of excellent one liners sprinkled throughout.
Aside from a gaggle of admirers, frenemies, and “ohmygosh, hii~!” acquaintances, Stacy had one very close BFF in Anita, who attended the same university as us.
“Ohmygosh, hii~! acquaintances,” was another one of those lines that made me put the book down for a second and giggle. I can perfectly see the physical reaction of the annoying girls, the way they place one hand on their chest, draw their faces into exaggerated smiles, then lean in. Not all evocative writing needs to be dramatic.
On the other hand, it’s occasionally nice to have it all spelled out for you in gory detail. Here’s an excerpt from just before Aron and Stacy have their drunken night of passion.
It was a Saturday night, and Aron was treating himself to some relaxation, which he considered well-deserved after his long day at work. He was sitting at his desk in front of his computer, wondering what to do next. His blood was up after several successive victories in Starcraft 2, but he didn’t feel like starting a new game. So he opened his internet browser without a clear goal in mind, and before he knew it he found himself typing a long-familiar URL into the address bar, a little thrill down low in his stomach sending a rush of blood into his slumbering pale caterpillar. Seconds later, colourful visions of hentai porn covered his screen. He scrolled down the home page of the site, hardly paying attention to the thumbnails of the videos: at a glance, he knew he’d already seen most of them, some more than once. It was not tentacle rape he craved, nor girls with cat ears, nor an X-rated parody of Naruto. But what did he want to see? He licked his moist, puffy lips, and his pupils dilated as he clicked on the search bar and began to type: l-o-l-i-
The book is fairly apolitical, and more than a little degenerate at times as you can see from the above. Having said that, almost everything made by Hollywood has the unmistakable whiff of (((Globo Homo))), like the occasional obnoxious poke to the side in the middle of your viewing experience. This book is the same, but in the opposite direction.
Marlon, the unreliable narrator, is essentially one of us, albeit a bit less morally upstanding than we would like. There are a few quips here and there, and the sleazy lawyer, Farley Finkelbart, is a walking, talking canard distributor if ever there was one.
I won’t spoil anymore of the book. You should read it yourself, as I did that very same Saturday afternoon when I got it. I’m not saying this to help out a friend. If the book was bad, I wouldn’t have written a review. If the book was mediocre, I might have written a review, but I would have said so. This is legitimately the best book that I’ve read in a very long time, and miles more entertaining than any of the Hollywood garbage that I’ve subjected myself to for content, even setting aside politics.
It’s light reading. According to Goodreads, the book is about 37k words, firmly in novella territory. The main plot is not overly simple, but the book moves at a brisk pace, with little fluff, and no noticeable side plots. I can’t recommend the book enough, and I’m proud that someone with the right politics was able to make something of such quality.
If you are interested in purchasing this book, either the paperback or e-book version, if you head on over to the book’s page on Goodreads you can click on the arrow beside the “Buy on Amazon” – I believe the CA for Canada shows up because I am from Canada – and it’ll give you all the options for purchasing the book. A few sites, such as Smashwords, let you download the first 10% of the book for free and without signing up.
In a somewhat annoying turn of events, the Amazon Kindle version, while advertised, isn’t available right now. Mr. Biggums told me the issue is Amazon demanding paperwork proving that he’s not an American citizen, for tax purposes, and the Canadian Revenue Agency dragging their feet on giving him the documentation. He thinks it’ll get worked out in a few weeks, but it might take until October.
I am not the first to express the sentiment that we need to have more guys producing entertainment. Others have said as much to me, and I have quite the announcement on that front to be dropped on you later. For that reason it would be natural to assume that I very much want this book be a success. That’s true, but only partly because it’s written by one of our guys. Mostly, it’s just downright good novella and I can wholeheartedly recommend Triangle not just to our audience, but to almost anyone, provided they enjoy some risque humour. It’s a quality story, well told.
In the meantime, feel free to subscribe too his, as of now, quite small telegram channel where he regularly posts small blurbs from the book. I encouraged him to write more creative fiction in the future, and he told me that he was, but probably not so under the same pen name. There were some shenanigans with the original indie publishers, and it’s all very complicated.
In any case, I’m happy that it got sorted out enough that I can share this gem with you.