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Askew Review 15

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by Johnny Ostentatious (Active Bladder) Fiction, 2006. 248 pages. This is a terrible analogy, but I’ll use it anyhow. Reading this book for me was what I imagine it would be like for an alcoholic who’s told he can have all the free whiskey he pleases, as long as he drinks it out of somebody’s ass. Sure- in the end (no stupid pun intended) he’ll have all that satisfying booze in his belly, but getting to that point isn’t as fun as it would be via less trying methods.
  The concept behind Afterlife Battlefield is pretty cool. Recent suicides wake up to find themselves in a place called Holcyon. Immediately upon arrival they’re snatched up by representatives of either the “good” group (a bunch of right-minded souls called Mordavers who are led by various earthly mythological figures) or the “evil” group (called Knopfs- skeleton-like creatures who were psychopaths in their previous lives- and Bantams, who are essentially fallen angels). The two sides are about to wage the ultimate battle for control of the universe. And since God is temporarily asleep, it’s going to be a tough haul for the Mordavers.
  Our hero is Zack Fury, a depressed punk rock loner from Philadelphia . His counterpart is Melody Holiday, an indie rock singer from Australia who had her own issues back on earth. Together they encounter all sorts of wild shit that blows their minds but nonetheless does not prevent them from skillfully battling the bad guys to the end. Ostentatious does a nice job of fleshing out these characters, along with their various Mordaver counterparts, with interesting back stories that help set the stage for their current actions.
  Now here’s my fuckin’ problem with all this (the ass-drinking part, if you will): The dialogue is clunky and clichéd throughout much of the story- so much so that I found it consistently getting in the way of my enjoyment of this book. And while the characters sometimes seemed to think that what they were saying was pretty funny, it rarely came across that way to me. And, because I’m such a goddamn dialect snob, even Basildon, an eleven inch high spider who’s a court jester of sorts (and who I actually did think was kind of amusing), pissed me off a little bit. He’s supposed to be of British origin, but his accents rambles from stereotypical movie butler to Cockney lad to, at times, pirate-speak. I had a hard time concentrating on what was going on with him because I kept thinking that nobody (not even a spider in a sci-fi novel) would actually talk this way.
  Anyhow, that’s my only beef with this book. If you’re not as uptight about dialogue as I am, I think you should definitely check Afterlife Battlefield out. Johnny Ostentatious has a great imagination and has truly come up with some original, fantastic creatures and scenarios. He’s also put this book out independently, and I really admire the way he’s gone about doing it. And maybe for you it will be more like drinking out of a glass (or at least your dream girl’s bellybutton) than somebody’s rectum. –Ben Hunter



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