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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Plugged and Screwed

plugged eoin colfer book review

Plugged: A Novel,
Screwed: A Novel
by Eoin Colfer

After being introduced to the wry style, colorful characters, and an intricate yet fulfilling story in the Artemis Fowl series, I was curious about Colfer's novel for adults. I wasn't disappointed.

Plugged introduces Daniel McEvoy, a disenchanted ex-military Irish guy working as a bouncer in a sleazy New Jersey club. While not instantaneously charismatic, Daniel grew on me as the story unfolded. His heart is in the right place, he is rugged and resourceful, and he happens to be lucky as well, else there would be no story to tell.

A strange concatenation of circumstances takes Daniel from tragedy to calamity to disaster to near-annihilation. Being the main character, we know he'll survive somehow. At least, we hope he will, as the story is told in his flippant voice.

Clearly, Plugged isn't anything like Artemis Fowl as it is not a Young Adult fantasy but an adult crime thriller. However, it is anything but predictable. Though contrived, the plot is tight and unfolds at a rapid pace that kept me frantically flipping the pages in anticipation.

I used to devour Robert Ludlum, Alistair MacLean, John le Carre, Frederick Forsythe in my youth. While crime thriller, espionage, and mystery are not my top genre anymore, I have constantly read a fair share of them over the years to notice the deteriorating standards in presentation and the formulaic plot points. The more recent James Patterson books co-authored with others comes to mind as the prime example of disappointing novels. Women's Murder Club books were difficult to read. Somehow tedious repetition is supposed to project urgency and direness of the situation when all it ends up being is annoying. But, I am digressing...

The pleasures of reading any genre for me lies in the language nuances and style of narration. Most crime thrillers are fairly predictable - the hero is invincible/lucky/resourceful etc., the villain is devious/evil/equally resourceful etc. The circumstances arrange themselves to allow for plenty of action, and our protagonist and antagonist are physically supreme and well-matched, and possibly mentally as well. And yet, some of us keep going back to the same authors and protagonists wanting more because of the immense reading pleasure we derive.

The irreverent comedic undertones along with Daniel's sardonic wisecracks add to the reading experience. Early on in the book, we learn that Daniel has recently received hair plugs/implants as he is self-conscious about his receding hairline. And then, we encounter a disembodied sidekick Zeb, the "doctor" who performed the hair transplant, who talks in Daniels' head, thus adding a bit of zest to Daniel's monologues.

The subtle nod to erstwhile master of the espionage genre brought a smile: "I am surprised. ‘A disk? A bloody disk. What do I look like to you? Jason goddamn Bourne?”

Early on, in chapter 2, as Daniel slowly unfolds his personality for us, it was perfectly amusing when he asks: "A hair-obsessed ex-army doorman. What are the odds of those Venn diagram bubbles intersecting?"

It is these little nuggets that kept me reading on in furious pace. Of course, there's the usual drug turf war, murder, mayhem, ruthless mob boss and other such typical elements to keep the story moving, but, it is how Daniel moves through these elements that makes it worthwhile.

The sequel, Screwed, is equally cheeky and endearing at the same time.

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