Few things are as endlessly entertaining as depictions of Philadelphia in pop culture, which is why we're launching The 19102 Review, a new column devoted to Philly books.
Sci-fi, 2012, Bedlam Press, 252 pp.
Twenty years into the future, the U.S. government has all but eradicated death thanks to miracle drug Youthimax, which replicates DNA cells to keep them perpetually young. The result is overcrowding, rampant crime and a sharp decline in business for West Philadelphia’s O’Rourke Funeral Home. Frustrated by his diminishing income, and by the death of his wife Kelly just months before Youthimax’s widespread adoption, O’Rourke employee Maxwell Casur turns to Beatles-themed serial killing, both to drum up business and to reintroduce death to a city that’s forgotten it. He and his slovenly co-worker Bligh murder more than 100 people while ducking the FBI, the mob and Bligh’s precocious teenage daughter.
Bang Bang is the debut novel from Narberth author Patrick Malloy, who undoubtedly studied Orwell, Huxley and Kubrick. His darkly comedic dystopia alternates between amusingly stereotypical depictions (mobster Vinny the Fist, for example, is frequently described as wearing velvet suits and calling people “gibrone”) and musings on how, without the fear of death, society has deteriorated into lawlessness. “She suffered the terrible sickness that comes with the cockiness of knowing one is indestructible,” he writes of Bligh’s daughter, born into a Youthimax world. “There was no reason for her to be polite, caring, kind, or any of the above. … Her generation lived without fear, but all they did was live.”
The stereotypes and moralizing can get tedious at times, but overall Bang Bang is a quick, fun read that knows better than to take itself too seriously.
If you have a book that'd be perfect for The 19102 Review (the dustier, the better), email ten.repapytic@gylime, or just drop it in the mail it to Emily Guendelsberger at Philadelphia City Paper, 30 S. 15th St., 14th floor, 19102.
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