February 17, 2011

Rabid Reads: "The One-Percenters" by John Podgursky

The One-Percenters
by John Podgursky
Damnation Books (2010)
165 pages
Digital ISBN 9781615720132
Print ISBN 9781615720125

Reading John Podgursky's novel, there were moments when I was reminded a little of Patrick McCabe's Butcher Boy, mainly because of the first-hand account from the mind of a killer, and then moments when I was reminded of that movie Identity, because the protagonist Ed Caine's journey through mourning, death, and discovery plays subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at his reality.

Ed Caine describes himself as a One-Percenter in his first person account of life in the wake of his wife's murder. A One-Percenter is a kind of enforcer for human nature and fate. Selected by almost divine rite it would seem, as Caine has a cataclysmic epiphany one day that sends his life on an irrevocable course of killing. He's not killing indiscriminately though, as he and those like him target the mutations of humanity--the one percent on the other end of the spectrum, while the rest of us live mundane lives as the remaining ninety-eight percent.

Ed is one strange sonofagun. And as you read his words, you can't be sure if what he is saying is truth, outright lie, or a psychotic delusion. A review I read for this book prior to reading it compared him to Bill Paxton's character in Frailty--a distraught and driven man who kills in the name of God after his wife dies. It's an apt comparison, but this book carries a high creep factor during the episodes of violence and their aftermath. Ed is lost, and the choices he makes don't even make sense to him at times.

One thing I found lacking with the book though was a sympathetic factor to Ed. At no point in the novel did I like him or really ever root for him, and when I am reading a book I usually need to like the character whose head I'm floating in the whole time. He is a provocative character at times, however, and I didn't give up on the book.

There is a moment towards the end where the direction the story seems to be heading swings wildly, and Ed winds up in a situation that is a bit anticlimactic given what he has been through. The last few pages do make up for that at least.

It's a pretty good trek in the mind of a disturbed man, but I have a feeling the book may challenge readers to stick with it despite it being a quick read. I suggest readers who do give it a chance to keep with it through to the end. You might be glad you did.

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