Posted by Paul Samael on Friday, February 3, 2012 Under: Book reviews
I've just started a new section of my website devoted to reviews of free fiction by self-published authors, my aim being to demonstrate that "free" and "self-published" do not always deserve the stigma that is sometimes attached to them. This first review is of "Sonny's Guerrillas" by Matthew Asprey.
UPDATE 11.2013: Sadly, this book is no longer free - one of the perils of setting out to review free fiction is that authors who get a positive response to their work may (quite understandably) decide to start charging for it. But the short story collection referred to below remains free - and if you want to sample some of Sonny's Guerrillas before you decide whether or not to buy, you can download 20% free of charge from Smashwords.
An Australian composer living in the US is asked to write the score for an indie movie. The sensible course of action would be to politely refuse because he knows he’ll probably never get paid. But his career is going nowhere in the US, so off he heads to a Greek island where the film is being made. What happens next is a bit like a cross between “Hearts of Darkness” (a documentary about one or two, er, minor difficulties encountered by Francis Ford Coppola during the making of the film “Apocalypse Now”) and “The Beach” by Alex Garland (“Lord of the Flies” for the backpacker generation) - but with the action shifted from south-east Asia to Greece during the first throes of the financial crisis. In making those comparisons, I don’t mean to suggest that it’s derivative – on the contrary, it’s well written and sharply observed, with a very distinctive narrative voice.
I particularly liked the way the narrator is torn between world weary cynicism about the whole project and a more innocent yearning to help create something of beauty and lasting value. Sonny, the film’s director, reminded me of a CEO who will say or do whatever it takes to keep his company afloat, no matter what the collateral damage might be from his actions – but there is also something rather admirable about his sheer bloody-minded determination to get the film made. The extensive and multi-national cast of supporting players provides scope for some interesting observations about the casual racism and brutality lurking just beneath the veneer of European civilisation. Although short, it’s just the length it needs to be (I am fed up with 400 page tomes that could have said what needed to be said in a quarter of that length – let’s hope short-to-medium- length fiction of this kind has a brighter future now that ebooks seem to be coming of age).
Matthew Asprey has two other books on smashwords which I also enjoyed. “To murder my love is a crime” consists of 3 short stories – I liked the first one best, which is all about the wacky world of Hitchcock film memorabilia (again, a great first person narrative voice). “Red Hills of Africa” is another novella, much more of a comedy than “Sonny’s Guerillas” (although the latter has its moments) – and somewhat in the vein of Malcolm Bradbury/David Lodge satires on academic life, only with a lot more international travel involved. There was one particular passage about going through customs and immigration in Morocco which was so funny it nearly made me choke on my beer. I have committed the lines to memory in case I ever go there (although I don’t suppose I will have the nerve to actually say them to a Moroccan passport official….).
Click here to visit Matthew Asprey's website.
UPDATE 11.11.2012: Matthew Asprey has a new novella out - "Angelique in San Francisco". It's intended as the final part of what he describes a "loose trilogy" of backpacker stories - the first two being "Red Hills of Africa" and "Sonny's Guerrillas", which are reviewed above. I enjoyed parts of it, particularly the reappearance of the fictional celebrity author character, Joseph Kell, who also crops up in "Red Hills of Africa." But overall, I didn't think it worked as well as the other two pieces in the trilogy - maybe because it was trying to combine some of the comedy/satire of "Red Hills" with the more serious issues tackled in "Sonny's Guerrillas" (that combination is not always easy to pull off). Click here to view.
UPDATE 2.3.2014: "Lewis and Loeb" is another comic novella from Matthew Asprey (in similar vein to "Red Hills of Africa"). It satirises the academic pretensions of its hero, Lewis, as he takes it upon himself to inject some historical accuracy into a low rent ancient world TV series being filmed in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia (undeterred by the fact that the target audience of the series almost certainly couldn't give two hoots about the correct formation of the quincunx by Roman infantry fighting the Picts). You may well not give two hoots about the quincunx either, but Asprey - and the reader - has a lot of fun at Lewis' expense. At the time of writing, it was free - but as will be apparent from the above, that may well change.
In : Book reviews
Tags: "free fiction" "matthew asprey" "sonny's guerrillas"
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