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Hieroglyph: Stories and Blueprints for a Better Future
Neal Stephenson
Ukraine: Zbig's Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated
Natylie Baldwin, Kermit D. Larson
The Girl on the Train: A Novel
Paula Hawkins
Our Souls at Night: A novel
Kent Haruf
Above the Waterfall
Ron Rash
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction
Cathy Whitlock
The Homicide Report: Understanding Murder in America
Jill Leovy
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson
The Gods of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Callisto - Torsten Krol There is some darkly funny material here, and it had its moments, but while it was occasionally dark enough to impinge the senses, it was not funny enough to float.

Krol (a pseudonym) wanted to get out some rage produced by his divorce and directed those feelings towards a novel depicting the state of the USA today. His hero, Odell Deefus is a simpleton, a gullible Forrest Gump sort who will believe what anyone tells him. He is on his way to join the army, eager to fight in Iraq for his country. His ancient car breaks down in front of an old farm house in Kansas and he is taken in by Dean, a strange sort. The two bond over beer and Captain Morgan, but one night Odell becomes alarmed when he sees an open grave in the back yard, and fears that Dean may have evil plans for him. Hijinks ensue.

Krol has written a darkly comedic story set in a less-traveled part of the country, small-town Kansas. He has cast his lens on politicians, religious leaders, cops, the willingness of people to be misled by crooks, paranoids and liars, and sees in the current flavor of madness, fear and repression a fit subject for examination. There are no real innocents here, even Odell commits crimes, and manages to tell himself that since he means no harm he retains his innocence.

I was reminded a bit of Clockwork Orange, which is a far superior example of the socially critical novel, and of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Bad things just keep happening to good people. Perils of Pauline anyone? The Odell that Krol attempts to portray is too dumb to garner much empathy, but then Krol keeps veering away from the simpleton portrait to give his supposedly inept hero a rather confident intellect. Which is it?

Although I share most of Krol’s world view, or at least his criticisms of present-day America, I remained too far removed from his characters to care much what happened to them.