Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Review - Wrack & Roll by Bradley Denton

Wrack & Roll
Bradley Denton
Popular Library/Questar
ISBN: 0445203064
Cover art by Richard Corben
eBook edition: 1001 pages

“Wrack and Roll” is one of those hard to define books. Part Urban Fantasy, part Science Fiction, part space-race story, and part counter-culture expose Denton connects them all together into a funny, witty, and frightening mixture of a world that teeters on the brink of self-destruction.

Upon opening the book one of the first things I noticed was the creative language. My first impression was that it was a weak attempt at urban hipness but it soon became apparent to me that it was much more than that. It was the language of an arrogant counter-culture, of die-haired, tattooed, body-pierced anarchists that fit perfectly with this new and oddly almost-alternative universe. With words like “scrod” and “jackbugged” (and I’ll use them both in a sentence momentarily) “Wrack & Roll” gives us a sense of a world that easily might have been.

One of the best things about this novel was Denton’s fleshing out of his alternative universe and its history. Not only does he change the way that world politics evolve but he’s given it his own contingent antagonists and the language to go with them. This is an alternative world of the Straights and the Wrackers, two diametrically opposed cultures. The Straights are the moral majority, the corporate slaves, and the monotonous Joe Q. Public types while the Wrackers are the sub-culture “off-the-grid” rock and roll performers and their fans.

“Wrack & Roll” personifies the “Butterfly Effect,” that part of chaos theory that states that small variations in any event may produce major changes later. In this case, President Franklin Roosevelt dies when he chokes on a chicken bone in 1933 and Patton rolls into Russia after the fall of Germany which changes the world’s political climate. And while the United States still leads the space race the accidental death of a most beloved musician and celebrity astronaut, Bitch Alice, on a visit to the moon in 1967 causes the unexpected destruction of the entire U.S. Space Program. Her last words? “Trash Dallas!” Why Dallas? It’s the home of the fictional National Organization for Space Science (a veiled reference to NASA). In 1979, Bitch Alice’s daughter, the Bastard Child Lieza, goes on tour with her band “Blunt Instrument” to stop the war between the U.S. and the Anglo-Chinese Alliance and prevent total world annihilation. I won’t give away the ending here but it is pure WRACK & ROLL.

And now for that sentence I promised you.

I’ve written some scrod-awful reviews in my time but most of them were because I was jackbugged out of my mind at the time. I hope this isn’t one of them.


4 out of 5 stars

Related Websites:

Brad’s author site: http://www.bradleydenton.net/books.htm

Author Wikipedia site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Denton

Bradley Denton Internet Science Fiction database site: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Bradley_Denton

Wrack and Roll Internet Science Fiction database site: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?2897

Denton Interview: http://www.williamdgagliani.com/int_brde.html

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

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