About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Freelance writer, fantasy novelist, and nerd of the highest order.

Review: The War Against the Assholes

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, you know what would make a great story? Harry Potter crossed with the movie Snatch.”

Cover art for The War Against the Assholes by Sam MunsonI’m guessing probably not. Unless you’re author Sam Munson, in which case you’ve not only had that thought (or something similar) but written and published it as a book.

And yes, the title really is The War Against the Assholes.

It’s one part teen drama, one part black comedy, one part gang war, one part urban fantasy, and one part… I don’t even know.

The story follows Michael Wood, a jockish teenager attending a fancy Catholic school in New York. An encounter with a strange boy named Hob ushers Michael into a gang of rogue magicians.

They live in defiance of the secret magical hierarchy that has reigned over the world for centuries. These individuals are properly referred to them as theurgists, but Hob refers to them as assholes, and the name sort of sticks. To be fair, it’s not an inaccurate descriptive.

Above I compared The War Against the Assholes to Harry Potter, and there is definitely a resemblance. There is a lot of teen drama and coming of age themes here, albeit presented in a deliberately crude and often borderline twisted manner. The conflict between Michael’s gang and the “assholes” also sometimes seemed to amount to a contest between rival high schools, albeit a deadly one.

So basically Harry Potter with much more sex, drugs, booze, and violence.

It also reminded me of the Black Company novels in some ways. There’s that same deadpan, sardonic mannerism to the writing, the same twisted sense of humour.

As the Black Company comparison might imply, the prose is one of the strong points of The War Against the Assholes. Yet it’s also a weakness.

Specifically, the dialogue is handled in an unusual manner, and it’s quite disruptive. Instead of each line being its own paragraph, or spaced out any other way, the dialogue is just jammed into the middle of paragraphs, with lines from different characters coming back to back often with inadequate clues as to who’s saying what. It’s very confusing, and it gets tiresome.

A photo of the New York City Skyline at duskI suspect this was a conscious decision on the author’s part. The book is told in first person perspective, and Mike is, by his own admission, not terribly bright. But intentionally writing the book poorly in some ways, while an admirable effort towards verisimilitude, still does more harm than good.

Since we’re on the subject, Mike just isn’t that compelling of a character. He’s ultimately little more than slow-witted thug, and his main virtues as a member of the magical revolution is that he is both very capable of and very willing to hurt people when the situation calls for it.

By far the biggest flaw of The War Against the Assholes is that its main character is also its least interesting character by a wide margin. I would have much preferred a book from the perspective of, say, Hob, or Alabama the gun-toting sorceress.

There are some other issues, too. The story flows oddly, with the most climactic events happening about halfway through and the story just sort of slowly petering out after that. The ending is also quite underwhelming and doesn’t provide closure to much of anything. Normally I’d say this is just leaving room for a sequel, and admittedly that remains the most likely scenario, but the whole of the book is just so odd I wouldn’t be shocked if it turns out that really is it.

That said, the book still has many strengths. It’s funny, it keeps you guessing, it’s extremely original, and aside from the dialogue issue, the prose is very clever and a joy to read.

Something else that impressed is that despite the book’s irreverent attitude and real world setting it still manages to evoke the sense of awe and wondrous beauty that lies at the heart of the fantasy genre. I can’t call out specifics without getting into spoiler territory, but there are scenes in this book that left me genuinely awestruck.

The War Against the Assholes is not a book that I would recommend to everyone. Its graphic subject matter and relentless oddness would definitely turn off more than a few people. But I enjoyed it, and it deserves major credit for being different.

Overall rating: 7.7/10 Abracadabra, bitches.

Review: Continuum, “The Desperate Hours”

One of the most interesting and underutilized types of plot, in my opinion, is having a protagonist’s plans fail.

The official logo for ContinuumI don’t mean just a setback. I mean an utter, spectacular, catastrophic failure. To have all of their carefully laid schemes come crashing down around them.

As Continuum’s second to last episode begins, Kiera has developed a risky but complete plan to end the threat presented by Kellogg’s future soldiers and get home to her own time. Alec has done the math, and it should work. She just has to rely on Brad and Kellogg holding up their ends of the bargain.

Maybe it’s not surprising that placing her faith in such people doesn’t end well.

Failure is definitely the theme of this episode. Failure of plans, of efforts, of aspiration. But also personal failure, as well. Failure of the characters to be their better selves.

I was so disappointed by the actions of several characters in this episode. Just craven, selfish, irresponsible behaviour all around.

The really ironic thing is that the people who came out of this mess looking the most heroic are Travis and Dillon, which almost makes you wonder if this is Opposite Day. But really it just shows how far the others have fallen.

Kiera, Alec, and Carlos in ContinuumTo be fair, Alec and Carlos still managed to stay true to their principles, for the most part.

I’m not complaining. All of these actions made sense in the context of the characters’ various arcs, it made for good drama, and one of the things I like about Continuum is that it’s a very morally gray show. Often, the “good guys” are no better than the people they oppose.

At this point, though, at least one character has definitely crossed the Rubicon, and I can only look forward to their inevitable (hopefully grizzly) demise.

Another major theme of “The Desperate Hours” is once again throwing doubt on whether Kiera can get home, or if the timeline she came from even still exists in any form.

I’m quite glad of this. It never made much sense to me that Kiera could take her home’s preservation for granted when much of last season was devoted to making clear that her timeline was gone, and her letting go of it. Admittedly, Continuum’s rules regarding time travel are not terribly well explained, but Brad’s very existence seems to show that Kiera’s home is long gone.

Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron in ContinuumI will also say again that I hope Kiera does not ultimately make it home. It would waste a lot of the character development she’s gone through to do date, it wouldn’t make much logical sense, and honestly I don’t think Kiera deserves a perfect shiny happy ending.

Kiera isn’t a very good person. She’s not a monster, but she’s no hero, either — and “The Desperate Hours” proves that quite conclusively. I don’t necessarily want to see Kiera suffer, but I don’t want her to get everything she wants, either.

She just doesn’t deserve it.

My one significant complaint with this episode would be that we see nothing of Curtis or the Traveler, and considering how important they theoretically are and how close we are to the end, I was expecting them to have a role to play.

Overall rating: 8.1/10