Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits is a novel by David Wong, AKA, Jason Pargin. I think that might be his whole name, actually. With the AKA and everything. It’s how I always hear him introduced. So, for the duration of this book review, I’m going to refer to him as Wongin.
If you know me, or click through a few pages of the books I’ve read, you’ll notice that I don’t read too many novels. That’s partly because when I sit down and read for a while, I want to get up and feel like I’ve accomplished something. So, I like non-fiction books. They leave you with smart sounding anecdotes, factoids and, if I’m lucky, some real, durable knowledge that makes a difference in my day to day decision making life. Novels don’t do that. People don’t like to hear about novels, unless they too are reading that novel. Actually, no, no one likes to hear about any books. But at least with non-fiction, I can tell myself that it’s worth annoying people. Like talking too much about the news, versus the latest episode of whatever on Netflix.
Speaking of Netflix, Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits has apparently been picked up as a Netflix show, which is awesome and maybe even true (the internet hasn’t said anything about it since last year). I’m keeping my fingers crossed because this book would make a perfect series. It encourages binge reading like Netflix encourages binge watching: very, very effectively.
Wongin is also the author of John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude Don’t Touch It. Also, the soon to be released What The Hell Did I Just Read, which I obviously have not yet read. John Dies lost some of its sheen after it was made into a movie which, wearing my pretentious bookworm hat, was not even a fraction as good as the book was. It should have been a Netflix show. Are you hearing me Netflix? No? Oh right, this is a lightly trafficked blog in some dusty corner of the internet.
John Dies, and This Book is Full of Spiders were my favorite modern novels until Futuristic Violence came along. It took me more than a year to read it. Coming off of John Dies, I just wanted more John & Dave adventures, so I bought the book out of loyalty to Wongin, then just left it in my Kindle library until last month.
It. Is. So. Freaking. Good.
Futuristic Violence is set in an obscure mashup of the distant and near future, where destruction and sales technologies have dramatically outpaced the humanities. Bodies can be augmented into insane weapons, and entire buildings can be made into lifelike advertisements, but where people hold almost no value in other living things.
The story begins in what seems to be a present day Colorado trailer park, where our protagonist Zoey and her stinky cat Stench Machine are chased and attacked by some unknown assailant broadcasting his crime on something called the Blink network—basically, the imagined end game of Facebook Live, where everyone is streaming everything all the time and millions tune in for the most provocative content. I wonder how many people on the Blink network are just streaming some other person’s stream that they’re watching.
Anyway, Zoey, is saved from the attacker at the last minute by a startling hologram of Will, who who helps her get to the lawless mega city, Tabula Ra$a. A futuristic metropolis built by the ultra wealthy to do whatever they wanted. It’s run by thugs, gangs, private security forces and everyday people who will do anything to be the Blink stream everyone is watching.
When Zoey arrives, narrowly escaping an attack by some lightening wielding maniac, she learns her deadbeat father was sickeningly rich and that he’d left everything to her—-Including the contempt of a budding supervillain, Molech, who killed her father trying to get some very villainy technology he was keeping secret before he died.
Like Wongin’s other books, Futuristic Violence is packed with dick jokes and pop culture jabs. Wongin has a kind of contempt for bro-culture, making all of his supervillains meatheads that were probably frat boys a few years earlier. Zoey herself is also a kind of comment on neo-feminism. And, if you’ve heard Wongin in Podcasts or read some of his articles on Cracked, the evil of Tabula Ra$a and the relative innocence of everywhere-middle-America, can’t be missed. Wongin wrote an amazing article shortly before Trump was elected which perfectly captured the delusion and elitism on the political left. These ideas are clearly and satisfyingly coded in the pages of Futuristic Violence.
Futuristic Violence gave me another reason to prefer non-fiction books: It’s easy to stop reading non-fiction books. But Futuristic Violence was so perfectly paced, it never felt like the right time to put it down. I had to intentionally put on the brakes just to make sure I had more to read later (also… so I could work and make money). And when it was over, I really didn’t want it to be over.
The book was a very satisfying read. It was funny and thought provoking. Not in the sci-fi sense—there are some glaring plot holes—But in the social order and psychology sense. If you enjoy a good dose of crude humor, and a lot of action, you’re probably going to love this book. Then, go read John Dies. Then go write a letter to Netflix and tell them what they already know they need to do.