SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY | A book review by weird speculative fiction writer Ted Fauster

by Gary Shteyngart

A book review by weird speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

By reading this review you are denying its existence and complying consent

The third novel from Russian-American satirist Gary Shteyngart is a refreshing dystopian, absurdist, slipstream, near-future political romp that stands up exceptionally well to the times. Given our current political situation, this book just might be what America needs to be reading right now.

Told through the detailed and quite expressive diary entries of one Lenny Abramov (a hilariously neurotic and naive life extension salesman living in New York), and the electronic messages of Eunice Park (his would-be Korean-American girlfriend more than a decade younger), the book fluctuates between these two very different POVs, serving up two halves of an unbalanced and possibly doomed whole. This is the love story. But the illusory and elusive promise of everlasting bliss often blinds us from the harsh realities of the world.

For me to fall in love with Eunice Park just as the world fell apart would be a tragedy beyond the Greeks.

As far as our dear narrator is concerned, truer words might never have been spoken.

Shteyngart’s satirical wizardry propels this novel along at a breakneck pace while simultaneously offering plenty of opportunities for reflection. Think the world is fucked up now? Just give this little book a read.

Where to start…

A good drop-in point might be the fact that China is about to call in all its loans to a consumerist United States now so far up its own ass that every citizen might need a window installed in their stomach just to see where they are going. Not that that would help. Everyone with a pulse has their nose buried in their apparats (the future’s even more annoying equivalent to a smart phone), even as the grip of a totalitarian police state keeps tightening, even as a war with Venezuela keeps pressing uncomfortably close to home, throwing a (possibly much-needed) wrench into the whole vapid mess.

At its true center, this book explores the widening divide between the haves and the half-nots, fueled by an out-of-control generational chasm distancing the newer, younger world obsessed with image and technology, constantly rating themselves and each other, and the geriatric regime spinning its wheels to keep up.

What was especially appealing for me is the way Shteyngart brilliantly sets you up. At times, the narrative seems obvious, drawing you toward conclusions that are inevitably shattered. What were you expecting? Once you begin to feel comfortable with this strange new world, everything takes a sudden and unexpected turn.

If you’re looking for a flashy, depressing futuristic read you might want to pass. This really is a love story, not just between two oddly paired individuals, but between mankind’s obsession with defeating the ultimate bummer, death itself.

Eternal life is the only life that matters, All else is just a moth circling a light.


ZANESVILLE | A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

by Kris Saknussemm

A book review by weird fantasy & speculative fiction author Ted Fauster

My agent recommends books to me all the time. This was one of them. To be honest, when I started reading ZANESVILLE I was a little spooked. There aren’t many writers I can say are clearly out of my league. Saknussemm is one of them.

This is speculative science fiction at its absolute finest. Hands down. Saknussemm writes with authority and a gleaming sense of style. This guy is clearly comfortable at the keyboard, and he really knows his stuff.

Now, I will admit that he and I share the same agent, but this should carry even more weight considering there’s probably a very good reason we’re both represented by the same person–our writing mannerisms are very similar. Kris also has been very helpful in guiding me toward my own personal style.

Okay, enough of the disclaimer. Now let’s chat like your average Joe Reader…

ZANESVILLE is strange. It begins by introducing a man with a half-meter penis who wakes up in a dystopian Central Park, where he encounters a myriad genetically altered/mutilated/enhanced people who claim to be fighting the all-powerful Vitessa corporation, a mega drug conglomerate that’s got the entire population of the world hooked on their yummy pharmaceuticals. Our well-slung hero has no memory of who he is, or what it is he’s supposed to do. A bizarre sequence of events sets him off on an improbable odyssey to find the answers to these questions.

Saknussemm pulls no punches. If you want a double-scoop of weird with some strange sauce drizzled all over the top, this is your book.

At times, the prose can get dense and even somewhat overwhelming. But this in no way impedes a reader familiar with the speculative terrain. Even so, I guarantee you’ve never read anything like this. You really will be taken on a very strange adventure.

If I were forced to come up with an elevator pitch, I would say ZANESVILLE was built on a framework not unlike the Blade Runner universe–except that practically everyone and everything is not at all what they seem. I’m serious, you’re going to encounter some weird shit in this book, but it all performs flawlessly.

ZANESVILLE challenged me, both as a reader and author. Once I caught on to the rhythm of the Saknussemm’s unique writing style, I was stupefied by how naturally the entire story unfolded. But you have to pay attention. Each paragraph (and I truly mean this) is packed with all sorts of interesting tidbits. It was like being led through a carnival sideshow spread across the entire country.

A good amount of suspension of disbelief is required, as well, as is a stomach for the very, very odd and at times borderline grotesque. Still, Saknussemm wields this power with skill and precision. There’s nothing in this book that doesn’t belong.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books I pull out each year and read again. Its that dense and valuable. I’m sure I could read it several times and catch something new.