Saturday, 9 March 2013

ePulp Goodreads Review of the Week - Fistful of Reefer by David Mark Brown.

Fistful of Reefer (Lost DMB Files #17)Fistful of Reefer by David Mark Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

***Pulp Warning*** My e-reading is mostly e-pulp centric. My reviews are therefore skewed towards e-pulp reading. Reader beware. ***Pulp Warning***

I'll qualify this review by saying that while Fistful of Reefer does resemble many other pulp stories out there it isn't strictly pulp. The author's intent, as I understand it, was to write Dieselpunk and as such it's not trying to be pulp.

On the other hand, Dieselpunk is my other prose obsession and there's plenty of pulp grist for the mill in this one. I mean it references The Dollars Trilogy in the title. That's not just pulp - that's classy pulp!

So I'm going to qualify everything and be more confusing than usual. Read on...

Overall: 4 stars (3 stars for pulp snobs, if it's possible to be such a thing)

As most people note, if you like your Serge Leone movies political (which is sort of a redundant statement) then you'll get a kick out of this story. I'm just repeating what others have said but this is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly set in 1920s America with a drug-based Macguffin. And goats that barf marijuana. If this in anyway sounds like your kind of thing then this story is for you.

A qualification for pulp readers though - if you're a pulp purist then you may want to knock off a star (or half a star if that were possible at Goodreads). As you may expect from a story with the word 'reefer' in its title, there is much introspection. You may like this, you may not. For you it's 3 stars. All four of you terrible snobs...

On the other other hand - this is fantastic Dieselpunk. More on that later.

Pacing and Action: 3/4 stars.

For a pulp story this can be a little slow. And the angst over various political problems may be a chore. If you enjoy a little bit of cheeky 'punkitude in your reading this will be fine. If you're not there's still plenty of spills and thrills, including some awesome period-specific vehicle-based chase scenes that will definitely float the boat of many a pulp reader. But then there's all that boring angst about politics...

Pulp Concept: 4/5 stars.

Not your average pulp concept, to be sure, but it IS suitably whacky and leads to all the shenanigans you could want from a pulp story, even if not quite at the pace you may want. A note on the drug thing - to my surprise the story doesn't actually have much to do with drugs. They serve as a MacGuffin that then charges the political environment the characters move through. So don't be too put off by the idea. If you despise everything to do with drugs then the title should have put you off already. But if not, don't worry cause the stuff just ends up being yet another banned substance during Prohibition era America. Which gets our heroes into a lot of trouble. And the most disturbing moment of drug consumption comes from regurgutating goats...

Character development: 3/4 stars.

Again, I'm going to qualify this one. I didn't particularly like the first protagonist, but that's because I didn't 'get' him. I just had a lot of trouble getting a read on him. He was kinda flaky and passive. The other protagonist was a little more straightforward, even if he could be seen as the antagonist as well, but I think this also benefitted from previously reading Reefer Ranger, the free prequel of sorts to Fistful of Reefer. There is, however, plenty of character development among the supporting cast and some really intriguing character paradoxes that were unfortunately left unanswered. But by pulp standards this was pretty good. My inability to understand the protagonist notwithstanding.

Production: 4 stars.

A zany cover that grabs you and professional editting etc on the inside make this an easy book to read.

Series Potential: 4 stars.

There's already a stack of different stories in the DMB Files which I've been told will serve as artifacts in a series set in the present. In the new series the stories will be referred to as documents written by a pulp writer/historian that is trying to unravel various conspiracies. And considering the titles of the other stories include zombies and other pulpy concepts I think the series potential is already on show to see.

If you're interested check these out:

The Austin Job
Del Rio Con Amor
Twitch and Die!
And the one that gets my attention: Paraplegic Zombie Slayer

So there's plenty of pulpy madness out there to be had in the world of the DMB Files. Series potential? Big tick.

Dieselpunk: 5 stars.

As a Dieselpunk story this thing is top class. 'Punking a time era (Steam, Diesel, Atomic, Cyber) is to criticise the politics of the present or the past by using the past to show up the future or inserting modern values and ideological beliefs into the protagonists existing in a former or future age. And this book does so in spades, using the idea of a character's quest to get their cash crop (which just happens to be an illegal substance in America at a time when most things were illegal) away from the people who are hunting them as a political statement about banned substances, freedoms and a range of other topics. The fact that it uses a Mexican perspective of the era and examines the various political shenanigans happening at the time a) gives it that special Serge Leone flavour, and b) lands squarely within the target it was aiming for - Righteous Diesel'punkitude (come on, it's called Fistful of Reefer. Did you think I'd get through this review without one stoner movie reference?).

If you like Dieselpunk then buy buy buy.

That is all.

Wrap Up.

Bizarre story that will pass some people by completely. But if this is at all remotely your thing - even if you're not into the whole drug politics thing - I suggest you give it a go, or at least track down the free Reefer Ranger to see what you think.

You never know, it could be your gateway drug to the DMB Files...

View all my reviews

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