2012; 178 pages. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Contemporary Fiction. Overall Rating : 7*/10.
Max Fagan is looking for change. Of course, the “change” he wants is money back after handing over a twenty-dollar bill to a street vendor for a hotdog. The change he’s gonna get is something entirely different. Be careful what you wish for, Max.
What’s To Like...
The Attic Piranhas is a fast-paced story that is difficult to slot into a single genre. There are humor, drama, and action; all in more or less equal amounts. There are a plethora of plot twists which gives the storyline a roller-coaster feel – you know you’re going somewhere, you’re not quite sure where, but you know you’ll have fun getting there.
Max is a fine anti-hero – lazy, overweight, delinquent on his bills, always wanting something for nothing. He has Charley Axon – a “voice inside his head” - that puts all others to shame. The concept of attic piranhas is both original and well-done. It would be a spoiler to tell you exactly what they are.
The question you’ll keep asking is : is there something magical going on? Marlin Williams will keep you guessing up till the very end. The ending is adequate; I felt it was a bit contrived, but that’s in keeping with the flavor of the book.
There are some weaknesses. At times the weirdness threatens to overshadow the story. There are some continuity issues. Max’s colleague, Ramir, needs a backstory. The prologue has no relevance at all. I still haven’t figured out what a blown-out shoe is. And the methane conflagration? Not very likely. To boot, methane’s odorless, so Max wouldn’t smell it. Trust me, I’m a chemist.
“How did you know what I was looking at?”
The man pointed to the ceiling. “Security camera.” He eyed Max curiously. “Are you a collector?”
Max feigned interest in the oddities surrounding him. He recalled his own collection of disposable dining-ware and infomercial bargains overflowing from his cabinets and nodded his head. “You might say that.” (loc. 404 )
A small, mousey man entered the room. He was a social puzzle, an assortment of odds and ends coming together to form one strange individual. His neon-green glasses were perched on the bridge of his long nose. His thin frame was neatly wrapped in a red and white pinstriped suit and adorned with a bowtie of archaic patterns. He could have been Andy Warhol’s parting gift to the world. (loc. 855)
“Remember, it’s midnight in the house of dark and light.” (loc. 2862)
The best way to describe The Attic Piranhas is that it’s “A Confederacy of Dunces lite”. Both have unlikeable protagonists, abundant weirdness, and meandering plots. Heck, both have hotdog vendors. TAP is shorter and easier to follow, and for all his faults, Max is a lot less annoying than Ignatius Reilly. OTOH, I felt the writing in ACOD (reviewed here) was stronger.
A lot of readers won’t like TAP, which is also true of ACOD; but I found it to be entertaining. It did seem like some beta readers could have really helped it, though.
7 Stars. Add another 1½ stars if you think, like the Pulitzer peeps did, that John Kennedy Toole’s opus was a masterpiece.