BOOK REVIEW: ‘Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits’ by David Wong

David Wong book
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits Cover
Image from Titan Books

If you’re a David Wong fan and happen to have read his other two books (‘John Dies at the End’ and its sequel ‘This Book is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch it’) you’ll know what you’re in for with his latest book, ‘Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits’ A crazy mix up of the disturbing, the hilarious, and the downright insanity that has you questioning whether or not you were high when you were reading.

With as few spoilers as possible, here’s a quick overview of the book’s set up: we open in a trailer park, watching through somebody else’s camera as they film a girl trying to convince her cat to get the hell off of her trailer roof. Who’s filming her? Well, that would be the guy who’s been stalking her all day, trying to decide on what his badass supervillain name should be and waiting for the perfect moment to attack. He’s recently had surgery- a surgery to have his jaw and teeth turned to titanium, which he plans to use to rip apart the girl before streaming the video of her horrible death to millions of people.

Of course, it doesn’t work out, but it does lead to a dramatic car chase, which in turn brings us to the book’s main setting: Tabula Ra$a. And no, that isn’t a typo- the place actually has a dollar sign in its name. Our protagonist, the girl with the cat (aka Zoey), finds herself in a world of wealth she’s never experienced before, being hunted by other equally absolutely mad and sadistic killers, unable to escape anyone’s eyes as the chain of events that takes over Zoey’s life is being broadcast to the world 24-7 thanks to Blink. Blink is a social network wherein everybody carries around a small, sometimes unnoticeable camera that live streams their entire lives to anybody who wishes to take a peek. And for the next six days the book will span everybody is pretty fixated on whoever has the camera closest to Zoey. And so begins a face-paced, non-stop ride through six days of horror, action, violence, and a lot of men wearing fancy suits.

The book is exactly what you’d expect from Wong: especially in terms of characterisation. He offers up another diverse and interesting mix of characters; no character sits in the background as somebody just doing their job. Each has been given an individuality that makes the book all the better to read as their scenes together produce dialogue that is both extremely funny and extremely profound at times. Zoey is your average girl (as average as the girls are in whatever year this book is set in- seems like Wong purposefully left that little detail out, so it’s up to our imaginations to decide exactly how far forwards we are at this point!) and is an amusing, realistic girl to read.

Her thoughts and experiences in life will resonate with a lot of readers. The thing I love about Wong’s writing is his ability to genuinely create a whole world that feels like it exists on its own outside of the book’s short coverage. The inclusion of smaller details can make all the difference in books and the impact they have on us as Wong demonstrates so well. His characters feel real as you read and are often easy to empathise with or feel for. One character- who dies before the book starts, and who we only see through Blink recordings and other characters’ memories of him, still exists as his own, individual, eccentric self and you can really get a strong sense of who he is, just as well as you do with the characters who are still alive.

The use of setting is also brilliant- Wong paints the image of a flashy, over-the-top, and utterly ridiculous landscape in Tabula Ra$a. The house Zoey inhabits whilst in the city is huge- we never explore the entire house but we definitely see enough to get the idea of just how rich rich people are in the future. In contrast, we also see the poorest of the poor- sitting right next to some of the richer parts of the city are huge crumbling buildings stuffed full of the technically homeless or unemployed; with no proper education, safe housing, or proper food. The class difference we see in the setting roots this outlandish, futuristic society in reality and reminds us of our own world around us.

Class is a key recurring theme in the story. Another important theme is the immorality of the futuristic society. Blink has become almost a replacement for TV and film; Zoey’s struggle to get away from a bunch of mutated serial killers is watched by millions worldwide- and yet nobody watching tries to help. In fact, many watchers are cheering on the bad guys, with votes being held in the Blink comment stream on how exactly Zoey should be killed. Our protagonist’s life acts as a movie for the nameless crowds observing her, and they watch in glee and anticipation, hoping for a gory, bloody end to her life. Perhaps this is the most disturbing part of the book- not the lunatics trying to tear Zoey apart with their bare hands, but the observers watching on their screens and enjoying Zoey’s suffering, sitting and waiting for the moment they get to see somebody being brutally murdered.

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