book review: the four fingers of death

Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death is an odd kind of book for me. I really like the idea behind it (a “literary novelization of the 2020s remake of a 1960s B-Movie”). The construction of the framing story plus the Mission to Mars story that never shows up in the film being adapted is very neat. I like the future world Moody’s depicting, with its increasingly irrelevant NAFTA-bloc being overshadowed by Sino-Indian concerns so they’re trying to do these grand space gestures to delay the inevitable end of American hegemony.

But man, I hated reading this book.

The problem is basically that every scene goes on and on. Pages and pages are spewed out conveying nothing. I care about the one-sentence summaries of these characters, but the endless pontificating and monologuing that never actually help illuminate the characters or the situations made this thing a slog and a half. There were good bits and ideas and scenes (especially in the introduction and afterword), but they were buried in all this extra crap.

It’s funny because the narrator of the story is introduced as a baseball-card collector and writer whose grand contributions to literature are these stories that are 1 sentence long. So it’s funny to have the book be a monument to prolixity. But not funny enough to keep me from heaving a sigh of relief when it was done.

The whole thing made me miss Kurt Vonnegut, which was conscious on Moody’s part. But Vonnegut wouldn’t have taken 700 pages to do this book.

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