So I had a long trip back from Homeworld #1 to Homeworld #2, a four hour drive in fact, and I decided to pop up a delightful – or the opposite of it – book called Atlanta Burns (Bait Dog?). Generally, I like to spend my book reading time trying to get through the slog – and I mean that in the most positive way it could be meant – that is Steven Erikson’s Malazan series. I’m sure you’ve read about my present obsession with him.
This time around though, I decided I wanted a change in both subject matter, writing style and genre and Chuck Wendig’s a writer I’ve always followed but I’d never actually read anything from… beyond his flash fiction length shorts. So I figured this was a great way to get into it. The book was just short enough so that I could read it in one sitting, literally, one long sitting between the two homeworlds whilst car sick because fuck cars.
Anyways, to the book itself. I want to call this a review. I am going to call this a review. But as per usual, I use the term review in the loosest, stretchiest – not a word to my dismay – way possible. Atlanta Burns reminds me of this book series I read not too long ago from Joe Abercrombie – had to google his name again, fickle memory and all-, called the First Law trilogy. You may have heard of it or even read it. If you haven’t and you like fantasy, please do.
Hot off the heels of trekking through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I thought the man was a cruel, cruel bastard. Like the many who’ve read or watched any material pertaining to it equally do. He ruthlessly kills off characters with no remorse, same shit you thought, there isn’t anything worse than that. Joe Abercrombie kinda’ flipped my idea of cynical and evil on its head, he makes G.R.R.M. look like a puppy. I know, it’s subjective, I don’t disagree with that. So this depends on your perspective of what’s worse, getting your head chopped off or ending up Ramsay Snow’s pet.
Joe Abercrombie basically maintained the mantra that there are worse things in life than death. It’s like every character in his story was Theon Greyjoy, just fucking balls – oh the irony in that – of cynicism. I felt cheated, and robbed after finishing it. Another reader might hate that, the somewhat sorrowful ending, a lot of readers are willing to go through some of that suffering for that happy ending. I think G.R.R.M’s got a happy ending planned for his world too. But, Joe took the opposite road, and that made me fall further in love with his world and I totally intend on getting back to it with all of the novella’s and short stories and side novels he’s got for it.
Now where was I going with this… right. I got it. Atlanta Burns gets a similar criticism going for it (though mostly positive reviews, after all, it was funded by Kickstarter so it’s a fan favorite), it’s filled with a lot of misery. And the last monologue at the end doesn’t deny it. Burns’s – I know people hate the s’s thing, but fuck you, I’m doing it, because Stephen King said so *cue shattered glass* -, world is a miserable place to live in. Like the bottom rung of first world problems. Most of the characters lead despondent lives, and if you’re not thinking, Man I have it good, after reading it, you probably have a pretty bad life too and I shed tears for you. Metaphorically of course.
Wendig’s pretty fucking brilliant with his pacing, in a way, he just keeps making shit worse, and worse, gives you that glimmer of light, then takes it away so that it’s even darker than it was before. And it keeps you reading because you want to see shit get better, you want to see the happy ending. At the very least Wendig isn’t Abercrombie evil where at the end of the series everyone’s worse off than they were, but that’s not saying much. I was disappointed Shane, Atlanta’s Venezuelan sidekick, didn’t sever any limb or body part from any of the characters, you lose a star for that Chuck.
There’s a lot of character depth running through here too, and that character depth often highlights the bad in people, it’s what makes people think that there aren’t any likeable characters in the book but that’s the wrong way to look at it I feel. You’ve got to enjoy the characters in spite of their horrible qualities, or I suppose, hate them in spite of their good ones because they’re unbelievably layered. Atlanta’s that flawed character who keeps making mistakes whilst trying to make shit better you hear people talk about.
It’s a book I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone. It’s a gritty real look at the world, particularly our modern world, it’s also a sort of great demonstration of how to tell a story, pace it, how to layer characters. Even the ones who’ll pop up once or twice in the book. And the writing’s easier to get into then it is to step away. It hooks you, a page-turner in the truest sense of the word.
I’m not going to actually give Atlanta Burns a grade, I don’t really do grades. Uhm, bar when I’m reviewing games for another site. Instead, I present to you my opinion and you do with it what you will – though I feel the trash is an ill-fated place for it. Better kept in your pocket I’d say. But again, do with it what you will.
I enjoyed Atlanta Burns, and I was disappointed that Chuck Wendig hasn’t continued the series though if he ever does get around to it, I don’t know, maybe getting another Kickstarter up for it, you can bet my 1$ will be contributing – hey, I’m an unemployed student, don’t begrudge my cheapness.
& Next time I’m here, I talk to you guys about how I hate time travelling stories because they always fuck it up. Maybe. No Flash/Arrow this week so I just might.
Feature photo credit to: dashinvaine from deviantart.