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  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Novel
  • by: Jack Pendarvis
  • Date Published: August 2008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596922402
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 200pp
  • Price: $18.00
  • Review by: Matt Bell

In Jack Pendarvis's novel Awesome, the titular character is, in the most literal way, larger than life. A giant among men, he starts the novel off by proclaiming his own magnificence:

I am a hale man with beautiful teeth. My doctor always remarks upon my superb physiognomy. I am strong and clean. This morning I put on a nice yellow shirt and some brown slacks, pleasant to the touch. I capped myself off with my lustrous derby.
Finder of lost kittens, fixer of potholes, I stride the sidewalks. I am a white American male of Scandinavian descent. I try to be a good citizen. I have all the money I will ever need. I go around seeing what I can do to help. I can lift an automobile if I have to. I can run fast. I am at ease with the lingo of the common folk, explaining complex truths in a down-to-earth slang accessible to all. I can leap one hundred yards from a standstill, if necessary. I have the skills to build a robot. Deep down I am just a regular guy.
I am a giant. My name is AWESOME.

Anchored by this spectacular voice, the plot stays grounded despite constant threats of floating off into absurdity: Awesome sets out on a quest to acquire several objects which, when found, will supposedly earn him the forgiveness of his fiancé Glorious Jones, who left him on his wedding day after a miscalculation by Awesome's robot ward Jimmy causes Awesome to try to coerce Glorious into pleasuring herself on camelback in front of their wedding guests.

Okay, so sometimes it does get absurd, but wonderfully so—all of the above happens in just the first sixteen pages. The narrative continues along in this fashion, each plot point almost guaranteed to be less expected than the last. Luckily, the novel sidesteps any frustrated expectations for a more ordinary plot by attacking its own oddities with the gusto and glee that suffuses Awesome's voice. His misgivings during his quest are always short-lived, drowned in a sea of self-confidence and vigor that makes this novel a joy to read. Pendarvis uses his sense of excited wonder to bring the reader to vantage points of sarcasm and satire where he can offer dozens of witty observations about literature, pop culture, and other targets. All of this happens during a series of excellent set pieces involving, among other things, a group of mushroom-laden hippies guarding a needle in a haystack, a second giant in need of a good buggering, and the mysterious disappearance of every maraca in America, as well as appearances by various cultists and the Department of Homeland Security.

The overall effect of all this ridiculousness is a cumulative feeling of goodwill toward Awesome, making it impossible not to root for him as he attacks each of his trials with a bigness of heart and mind. Certainly, his self-centeredness causes him to occasionally lose track of the bigger picture, but along the way his bumbling bravado helps more people than it hurts, and even his tantrums are full of laughs. Pendarvis knows how to keep the spectacle coming, allowing his imagination to run wild and take us along for the ride. Awesome is a fine work of satire and humor, and not to be missed.

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Review Posted on August 04, 2008

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