BOOK REVIEW: Bacon Fried Bastard by David W. Barbee
Bizarro author David W. Barbee's latest novel of pig-men, flying crocodiles, and alcoholism
Piggly Swiggly, half man, half pig, wakes up after a drunken bender in the city of Salembruise. He soon discovers that in this city, bacon addicted junkies roam the streets and are out to eat him alive. While he avoids them, a pair of cyborg police have followed him to city, wanting him dead. Worst of all for Piggly, alcohol is banned in Salembruise, and he desperately needs a drink.
Storywise, Bacon Fried Bastard is a crime novel in a science fiction setting. It fits squarely in the Bizarro sub-genre. Piggly’s only goals are to find alcohol and money to buy clothes, whores, and more alcohol in any way he can get them. In the process, he falls in with Salembruise’s most powerful bootlegging gang who take a liking to his brewing abilities. The world of Bacon Fried Bastard is an odd and colorful one. Instead of cars and planes, the citizens of Salembruise get around via rickshaws pulled by blue cyclopeses and “crocodirigibles,” blimps flown by giant inflated crocodiles. Bacon is a powerful drug that turns people into junkies and alcohol heals Piggly’s wounds.
Despite being a strange and often humorous read, this novel also takes a look at the nature of addiction. During his travels in Salembruise, Piggly meets a bacon junkie named Ofelia and is smitten with her. While he tries to convince himself that he has no feelings for her, it’s clear he’s in denial. When she proves to be a burden, he could easily kill her as he does others with no remorse. But he can’t bring himself to. However, Ofelia doesn’t return his affections. She doesn’t love anything but her own addiction.
“I’ve explained this to you before. The only thing I give a fuck about is bacon. It’s my entire purpose. If I didn’t have bacon, I’d kill myself. This is what I’ve chosen, and there’s not a thing anyone can do to change my mind.”
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Piggly, for all his love of drinking, doesn’t enjoy his dependency on it. It’s a simple need. He doesn’t like the bottle, but the bottle likes him. Ofelia, on the other hand, has no desire to get over her addiction. Her life was meaningless before, but when she found bacon, she had a purpose, which is satisfying her need for bacon.
Piggly’s ability to heal from drinking is an especially interesting metaphor for the cycle of his dependency. When he drinks, he finds himself going on rampages that end up getting him and other people hurt. To cure of him of these injuries, he drinks more, which in turn leads him to more drunken rampages. Problems created by drinking are soothed by drinking which leads to more problems to be soothed.
William S. Burroughs seems to be a big influence here. A bizarre setting, an odd spin on a story reminiscent of pulp crime stories, and a look at the psychology of addiction.
“So he drank more, and soon he began to fade away and exist as something more powerful than himself.”
The biggest problem with the book is the editing. There are pieces of texts missing. These don’t ruin the book, but there’s enough to be distracting. It’s a shame, because a book like this deserves far better copyediting.