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Brendan Detzner reviews "Metapocalypse" by Mark Brendan

“Metapocalypse” is the tale of the adventures of a man named John Everyman in what is most probably the near future. We’re never quite sure of this, however, because Everyman has the misfortune of having control of his brain being tossed back and forth like a ping pong ball between two neo-Masonic organizations, as well as the odd cyber-pacifist-anarchist-terrorist group, who put considerable effort into constantly altering his personality and placing him within new paradigms which cause him to interpret the world around him in terms of different historical and fictional milieus.

And that isn’t even the half of it. Have no fear folks- this book isn’t just another sci-fi/adventure tale spiced up to look wilder then it really is. Whatever your reaction to “Metapocalypse” is, it won’t be familiarity. You won’t be able to tell what’s going to happen next, and when the plot twists are really kicking the effect is similar to riding a roller coaster blindfolded.

This may or may not sound like a good time, but “Metapocalypse” has more then it’s topsy-turvy structure to recommend it. Mr. Brendan has a flair for description (early in the book a mountain range is memorably depicted as being “unwholesomely reminiscent of a dead dog’s spine breaking out of its matted fur.”) and, more importantly, for humor. Humor, not science or conspiracy theory, is the glue that holds the novel together.

When the jokes run thin, however, the story runs into difficulties. You can only hop from perspective to perspective for so long before you have to take a breath and look around. Whenever Everyman is finally left alone for a little while to grow into a new personality/paradigm, all subtlety disappears and the sly wit that characterizes the more complicated, world-jumping passages is replaced with blunt, often boring irony. The problem isn’t the worlds Mr. Brendan creates aren’t interesting. All of them illustrate his main points (the endless variety of ways the rich can screw over the poor, the connection between the desire to climb the social ladder and the desire to get laid, etc.) pretty well.

The problem is John Everyman. In all of his incarnations, he remains a petty, materialistic asshole with no empathy whatsoever for his fellow man. There’s nothing wrong with that really, except that we’re constantly reminded of it, not through John’s actions or speech, but simply by the narrative. There’s far too much space used up telling us how bad he is, space that would be better used either showing us how bad he is or for explaining how he got to be so bad. Not only is the constantly carping on Everyman’s faults repetitive, and boring, it’s also unfair. Making fun of people with power and control is what great satire is made of, but Everyman, in spite of whatever his delusions happen to be at any given moment, is never even vaguely in control of himself. The attacks on his person don’t come across as just payback. They’re cheap shots, and “Metapocalypse” would be a much better novel if it spent less time on them.

The unfair beating on it’s protagonist is a serious flaw, an irritation that continues to grow the deeper into the book you get. But it never completely overshadows the books’ strengths, it’s humor and imagination. And anyway, it’s not like you can just read one of those other books about competing conspiracies with historical ties to Atlantis pulling on the strings of a totalitarian society that exists either far in the future or just after the industrial revolution. “Metapocalypse” is something new, and it’s a lot of fun sometimes. It’s just a shame that getting to the good parts requires so much digging.

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