Saturday, December 3, 2016

Book Review: Scrapper by Matt Bell

Scrapper by Matt Bell

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published September 15th 2015 by Soho Press

"Kelly scavenges for scrap metal from the hundred thousand abandoned buildings in a part of Detroit known as “the zone,” an increasingly wild landscape where one day he finds something far more valuable than the copper he’s come to steal: a kidnapped boy, crying out for rescue. Briefly celebrated as a hero, Kelly secretly takes on the responsibility of avenging the boy’s unsolved kidnapping, a task that will take him deeper into the zone and into a confrontation with his own past, his long-buried trauma, memories made dangerous again."

Scrapper is a interesting novel. I discovered it from an ad on Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast and it sounded interesting. A end of the world novel that takes place in a post apocalyptic city that is surrounded by the rest of the world going forward as normal. As a concept I thought was super interesting. Kelly the main character is a scrapper who goes on short trips into the abandoned future Detroit. He is salvaging metal and supplies from the the city left behind for dead.

Bell is clearly a talented writer who choose to employee as experimental prose form that reminded me of Cormac Macarthy's Blood Meridian. No grammar rules. Look not everyone can do this and I think the novel suffered for this. This was interesting concept but the story was a hard to follow at time and it greatly slowed down my reading experience.

I feel Bell might be a much better writer than me, but I felt sometimes the prose was just too experimental at the cost of the story. That might be on me. I spent alot of time slowing down and re-reading sections because the no grammar rules made for a confusing lack of narrative drive. That said Kelly is a interesting character and the setting is fascinating.

The concept of a isolated end of the world is a interesting one that I think Bell missed a chance to explore. None the less there are plenty of interesting story points. The novel is very bleak and haunting through out. This Detroit is one that could serve as a cautionary tale, but the novel is never preachy. It paints a vivid picture of a place no one would want to go. We get the sense that Kelly is doing something dangerous and the novel works quite well on that level.

That is one reason that the lack of grammar rules annoyed me. I started to become more interested in the process of the prose than the story. How is Bell conveying aspects of the story without quotations for example. When I was not doing that and just trying to flow with the story I would often get lost. I would have to re-read parts. Thus this was not easy or fun read for me. Also it is broken up with chapters about Guantanamo Bay, and Chernobyl that are both excellent but totally out of place. The Chernobyl one was more connected at least in theme.

So I think I liked the idea of the book more than the execution. I think there is plenty of awesome things going on here. I would say if the idea of the experimental prose doesn't turn you off then you are more likely to dig than me. I still think it is 3/5 stars more positive than negative and overall I glad I checked it out.

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