by J. W. Wargo
EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh…! What’s that, sonny? Martha’s like most any other old fuck. She likes church, shopping malls, and drives out into the country with her grandchildren. She’s kind and generous and all that other shit that makes old grannies your favorite kind of cheek-pinching person. One can always find her at her grandson’s basketball games, rooting for the home team’s fuzzy shapes on the court her eyes sometimes have trouble seeing.
Martha doesn’t realize her grandson’s school is run by the most nefarious bastards to ever grade a term paper. The teachers are nothing but gangbangers with diplomas, and the principal is an outright pedophile, sticking his dick into anything that cheers with pom-poms.
When the grandson fucks up during a big game and loses it for the school, the faculty take matters into their own hands. Martha gets a call from the grandson and hightails it over to the family home just in time to watch them murdered and set on fire. The dickheads beat the shit out of granny, too, and leave her for dead.
But Granny didn’t die. The old crank is still as rascally as ever and she wants revenge!
Populating Martha’s Pacific Northwest surroundings is a supporting cast I placed into two categories, either opposing or aiding her. There are no middle ground characters here, everyone has a stake in grandma’s quest for vengeance.
On the opposing team, I really like the all-encompassing evil that is the school principal, Mr. Mayonnaise. There is not a single thread of decency in the man. He is the uber-douche I just wanted to die a thousand deaths. His henchpeople, the teachers under him, are a motley crew, to say the least. Mr. Fust is frustrated and angry, but essentially all bark and no bite. Ms. Webber has more brains about her and seems more chilling with her ability to torture innocents indifferently.
Rooting for Martha are the mascots. Yes, those mascots. The ones dancing around in ill-fitted suits making total asses of themselves while supposedly boosting team pride, except these mascots aren’t made, rather they are born. I think they’re my favorite characters in the book because they’re such a fun take on a common role. They aren’t people in suits, they’re actually living creatures. When Musty pulls his horse head off to reveal a balding man’s head underneath, the skin tears off from his bleeding neck because the horse is the real him and the human head is to his body what our skulls are to ours. Don’t worry, his head will grow back.
If it were not for all the gratuitous violence and sex, this could almost be a children’s story. Not only is there something wholesome and childlike about our grandmother’s journey, but the way Mr. Reade approaches the story is rather innocent like.
Not to say there are no touches of the absurd that would go over a child’s head, such as a chapter calling to mind a certain greaser play or one that reads like your favorite action movie montage scene (which this part of the reviewer’s brain recommends reading to some classic power metal). The comedy bits really help break up the action bits, and when the two combine at times throughout the book you will find yourself excited and laughing simultaneously. A most enjoyable experience.
By keeping the middle section clear and steadfast, the author is able to really flesh out the meatiest parts of the book, that of the first act’s truly horrific scenes of Martha’s world brought to the edge of oblivion and the third act’s extremely satisfying battle finale. All of this is pulled off in a read that is less time than watching the original Rambo trilogy. Good show.
The delicate handling of the carnage, the absurdness, and the sweetness is no easy task. This book maintains all three without ever going overboard in any one direction. A difficult feat, and one so well pulled off that I am eager to see what comes next from this author’s pen.
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J.W. Wargo is a writer and author of his own NBAS book, Avoiding Mortimer, which sparked some controversy when the Make-A-Wish foundation allowed a dying boy to watch Marilyn Manson shove it up his own ass. You can also read about all the crazy shit he gets into while hitchhiking the world over at Imperial Youth Review.