Hello, my busy little bumble bees. Today I have a review of J. Kent Messum’s Bait. Read on past the Final Judgment for today’s excerpt and word count.
In my original review of this book, I called the characters “cardboard”. I gotta say, that’s not quite accurate. It’s not wrong, but it’s not completely accurate.
First off, one thing that annoyed the piss out of me but is purely subjective is how Messum described being high on heroin. I don’t know if Messum has ever done heroin. If he has and it felt like he had a worm in his brain, more power to him. That was never my experience with H. My experience was a warm, snuggly, extended-orgasm sensation. Like I was coming continuously for several minutes before the initial tide withdrew, leaving me all fuzzy for an hour or so. I never noticed anything going on in my head, especially because, most of the time, I was doing the junkie lean and nodding off. I chased the dragon for five years and never once encountered Messum’s worm. Could he have had a different experience? Yeah. But I’ve never heard anyone but him describe being high the way he does in this book. He got the withdrawal symptoms right, though, so kudos there.
Now, about the characters. You’re gonna hear “I just didn’t care about any of these people” quite often in reviews because Messum wrote much of this book in omniscient third person. It’s an impersonal style of writing, like a god looking down on his subjects, a god who knows all of their innermost thoughts and desires and motivations. But you can’t get close enough to the characters to properly develop them because you’re so far outside of the situation. This style is the only time it is acceptable to head hop, which the author does here. Messum did nothing wrong, though. The style is used properly. It is just, I feel, the wrong style for this kind of book; a book where you definitely need a good feel for your cast.
Another issue with the characters is that they are all pretty much the same person. They’re all junkies who only care about themselves. They start off that way and they end up that way. There is no progress. That makes for a boring time, as well.
The best part of this book is the sparse writing. It’s written in an engaging manner that is easy to read, so the book will likely fly by for you. Once I realized I had read this one before, I slowed down so I could really dissect what was going on. Unfortunately, there’s nothing deep about this book, nothing to study. Messum’s message is the old adage: Drugs are bad, m’kay.
The reason this didn’t rate lower for me is because the book is a gory good time. Messum doesn’t pull any punches, and I appreciate any author who describes a main character literally being eaten alive while their companions fight to save them. That scene was worth an entire star by itself.
In summation: This book is okay. I liked it all right, anyway. You likely will not hate it, nor will it become your Best Thing Evar. It’s forgettable enough that I picked it up thinking I hadn’t read it, but memorable enough that I eventually realized that I’d read it once before, when it first came out. I am definitely open to reading more from this author.
Final Judgment: An ocean of possibilities with the content of a puddle.
So, there you have it. Since you were good and read the whole thing, here’s your excerpt:
“Muy caliente, Papi!” Ramone hollered in an ear-splitting falsetto. He laughed and coughed until he worried he might stroke out. He attempted to scrub the image of his parents fucking in the back of a blazing Chevy Bronco, but it was no use. The weed had gone deep, and everything he thought of right then (Nazi war crimes, slaughtered puppies, boiled babies,) was the funniest thing to have ever jogged through his mind. If asked, Ramone would say he wasn’t such a bad guy. But the skunk weed he got from Johnny, while cheap as hell, always made him feel good to the point of giggling. The world could explode right now and he’d die laughing at the mushroom cloud due to its phallic shape.
Boom! You’ve been excerpted! Or whatever.
I broke 10k words today. Currently sitting at 11,661. Yay,me!
See you tomorrow,
Pic of the Day