Sunday, September 22, 2013

Z Is For Xenophobe - Terry Faust

    2012; 315 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Humor; Intrigue; Spoof.  Overall Rating : 6½*/10.

    What’s that sticking out of the feed in the huge Butler Ag Co-Op grain elevator in the remote little town of Hypothermia, Minnesota?  Why, it’s a radio antenna.  Attached to a 1962 Chevy Impala.  With four fully-inflated tires and a full tank of gas.  And in mint condition, no less.  How the heck did it get in there?

    Ah, but Butler Ag management is more interested in the human angle of the story, so they dispatch Bob (photographer) and Lenny (writer) to Hypothermia to interview the manager of the grain elevator, Bert Ozaka, who made the discovery.

    It’s going to be a boring trip to the boring boondocks to swap some boring words with a boring employee.  That’s what Bob and Lenny think, anyway.  Boy, are they in for a surprise.

What’s To Like...
    With a great title like Z is for Xenophobe, you know this is going to be a spoof.  There’s plenty of action and Terry Faust keeps the pace going at a fast clip.  The humor reminds me of Terry Pratchett, although Faust’s biting wit is a bit more specific, and therefore edgier.  If you’re a tea-bagger, you probably want to skip this book.  

    The plotline tends to run in circles – various good guys get captured, then escape, then are captured again, then escape again.  But Faust uses it as a device to gradually introduce us to a bunch of fascinating characters – some human, some extraterrestrial.  The main characters are adequately developed, even if several of them are flora, not fauna.

    Overall, Z is for Xenophobe is an entertaining read that kept me turning the pages, both for the humor and for the storyline.

    Had an interstellar Zen monk traveled fifty-two light-years from Earth and stumbled across this sudden appearance, this something from nothing, this singular singularity, he might have wondered to himself: If a wormhole portal opens twenty miles off the dark side of a moon of Veggia, and no one is there to hear it, would it still make a sound?  The monk’s question would be pointless not only because sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum, but because someone was there – two someones.  (loc. 90)

    Bert took another moment to expel his anger and turned to Bob, “You couldn’t be like your friend and let well enough alone, could you?”
    “Lenny, your coworker you boob!  The jerk back in the hospital.  You couldn’t be like Lenny?”
    “Not without a frontal lobotomy.  (loc. 6141)

Kindle Details...
    Z is for Xenophobe sells for $4.99 at Amazon.  The Amazon blurb indicates Terry Faust is working on the sequel, Y is for Wiseguy.

“Holy weeding mung! We in deep compost.” (loc. 107)
    For all its positives, Z is for Xenophobe has one gaping weakness – it has no ending.  None.  Nada.  Things just stop at a midpoint in another capture-&-escape loop.  You can’t even call it a cliffhanger ending, since the rescuer pops up at the very end, although the rescuing itself won’t come until Book 2.

    For me, this was a show-stopper.  A reader has the right to expect a completed story.  True, it may still be part of a series with a greater plotline, but there still ought to be some sort of wrapping-up of the immediate issue(s) at the end of every book.

    It’s a ploy, of course.  The author wants you to buy the next book as well.  But the reader has to ask himself – will each book in the series have a similar non-ending?  Do we then wait another year before being teased yet again?

    The sad thing is, ZIFX doesn’t need this sort of cheap trick.  The storyline and Terry Faust’s writing skills are both sufficiently captivating.  And there are lots of other ways to keep the readers thirsting for the sequel.  The issues at Hypothermia could’ve been resolved, but with Sigrid and Norvil escaping to outer space.  Gotnick and M’Lack could show up in the epilogue, as a teaser for Book 2.  Another wormhole could open, with who-knows-what coming through.  You get the idea.

    Alas, I can’t help but fear this is a literary Groundhog Day – an endless, repeating plot-loop until someone – either the reader or the writer – gets bored and bails.  And that’s too bad, because the universe and  storyline that Terry Faust has created here have vast potential as a series.

    6½ Stars.  Add two stars if non-existent or cliffhanger endings don’t bother you in the least.

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