Hey y’all. I hope you’re doing well and enjoying your Thursday. I’ve had a rough couple’a days and am feeling rather cranky. I’m halfway through a self-imposed monthlong moratorium on my beloved whiskey and am slightly the worse for wear.
But I’m hangin’ in there.
And whaddaya know, a bright spot to share.
I recently finished reading a book I enjoyed so much I decided to post a solo review rather than include it with one of my regular features “Thoughts on 2 Books”, “Thoughts on 3 Books”, or “Brief Thoughts on a Bunch o’Books”. I’ve already posted my review on Goodreads. If you’re interested in reading the synopsis, click the linked title below. And if you’re read the following book or anything else by its author, tell me what you think in my “Comments” section down below.
Trouble No Man by Brian Hart. I rated it 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it”, on Goodreads and shelved it there as American, fiction, novel, & post-apocalyptic.
Trouble No Man surprised me in the best way possible. Most of the Goodreads recommendations I’ve read have been underwhelming, but this one, wow, knocked my socks off.
Protagonist Roy Bingham (variously referred to as R, M, Roy, & most often simply the man) is a free-spirited, independent, adventure-seeking skateboarder, surfer, and loner, and Hart often uses language specific to those lifestyles that is dense and may sometimes be difficult to decipher for readers, like me, who know nothing of those pursuits. Except for that quirk, though, the prose is lucid, fluid, and perfectly suited to the harsh environment and brutal lives the characters are forced to endure. Some of the blurbs I read compare Hart favorably with Cormac McCarthy, and that’s apt, but Hart’s writing is somewhat easier to follow. At least he uses punctuation and quotation marks to signify dialogue.
Few of the characters in Trouble No Man are innocent, but Roy himself, who ranges in age from <25 to >55, is a stubborn, mean, selfish, inconsiderate, confrontational, pill-popping, booze-swilling, commitment-phobic asshole who goes to great lengths to avoid being beholden to anyone else’s will. Until he doesn’t. After which he becomes single-minded in his determination to protect and provide for his family, not all of whom are related by blood, at all costs. He reminds me very much of myself; I didn’t grow up until after I turned 35. I think that’s the main reason I liked this book so much. Roy is me. Except a competent me who’s able to survive in a deadly world that would probably kill me pretty quickly.
In addition to the language and the thoroughly-imagined, relatable, & realistic characters; dead-on descriptions of the post-catastrophe West; and the best damned dog, Pecos, since Rin Tin Tin, two things make Trouble No Man a great work of literature.
The first is its entirely plausible and realistic story of societal breakdown. Although I shelved it as post-apocalyptic, you’ll notice I did not also shelve it as sci-fi. I have no trouble believing that this very scenario could happen here in America, possibly even within the next 10 or 20 years, which is when the book seems to be set, and that this is almost exactly how it would happen and what it would look like.
Second is Hart’s total avoidance of overtly blaming the apocalypse on the hot-button political arguments of our time and those who stand on either side of the Red/Blue divide. Trouble No Man is not conservative or liberal propaganda. It doesn’t demonize or praise either group; it flat out refuses even to engage in a political argument. It’s merely the brutally honest reporting of how those who live through such a catastrophe struggle to survive and carve out a niche for themselves in a depleted world that hasn’t come to pass.
I’m going to add this one to my Amazon wish list and hope someone gives it to me for my birthday or Christmas. And I’m damn sure going to read some more of Hart’s work. If it’s half as good as Trouble No Man, consider me a new fan.
Have y’all read Trouble No Man or anything else by Brian Hart? If so, what’d you think? What do you think about post-apocalyptic fiction as a genre in general?
Take care, be well, and happy reading!