Saturday, September 17, 2016

Book Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Book Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Paperback, 256 pages

Published August 2016 by Night Shade Books

If this seems like a negative review, it is only because I had very high hopes for this novel. It is less of a novel and more of a thinly veiled act of trolling that takes potshots at members of the Lovecraftian lit scene. This is my third time reading a Mamatas novel and I think my problem with it is it seems a little below those books. When I read Bullettime and Love is the Law I was impressed and felt like I was reading works of genius.

I enjoyed I Am Providence, but it seems like an idea hatched at 2 AM in a bar during a convention. That is not to say that it wasn't worthy of exploring, hell my novel The Vegan Revolution With Zombies was no less an act of thinly veiled trolling. I get it, but I feel like Mamatas has more important stories to tell. I think highly enough of his writing that this just felt beneath him.

So OK lets talk about the novel itself. The story shifts between two POV characters one a stand in for Mamatas, named Panossian who is actually dead in the morgue the victim at the heart of the mystery. The other main character is Colleen Danzig who appears to be based on author Molly Tanzer. While their fictional counterparts are not as accomplished as Nick and Molly, there are hints if you are tied into the community. Each chapter is titled by a Lovecraft story that gives insight into the theme of the chapter. Well played.

The story goes that Panossian is murdered at the start of a weekend long convention for Lovecraftian fiction fans. Danzig (the character not the singer) tries to solve the mystery and that leads through a pretty funny look at the ridiculous factions and drama at the heart of this lit movement. The best laughs I got involved Lovecraft's cat.

The mystery is less interesting to me than the body blows and jabs the author takes at real life figures, and that doesn't help. The story starts off with some interesting structure and POV shifts but then as the novel goes on it loses focus. Mamatas was probably having too much fun roasting the scene, and it would have helped to keep the story itself a it more focused.

When I say this is trolling I mean the title is the exact same title as ST Joshi's biography of Lovecraft. While the character in the novel based on Joshi has their gender switched there is no mistaking what is happening here. The list of authors who are parodied here is long. Robert Price and Jason Brock get probably the most harsh treatment.

During the week I was reading this short novel Jason Brock and Mamatas had another flame war that was actually dramatized on the Horror Show Podcast with voice-actors. I shit you not. That was a real thing. It is all fun and amusing stuff. It is worth getting out popcorn and watching the drama unfold but really is a novel needed on the topic?

Sadly I think this novel will get more attention than many other fantastic novels coming out in the same year, or even Mamatas's own fantastic novels such as Love is the Law which I think is more worthy of your attention.

I suppose there is a certain curiosity surrounding a novel that sprung out a internet flame war about the racism of a long dead pulp writer. I don't know of any other novels based on internet arguments. I was entertained, however I don't know how the novel will play with people who don't know people being mocked or in the case of some writers given respect.

I think the less seriously you take it, then the more you'll end it. I think my hopes were too high.

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