We're sad to say but this is one of the few cases when we just collectively could not approve of a book. Thankfully, the author has several more entries and this will hopefully not become a pattern or a total loss, because it does seem like the author has a talent for writing. The problem with the stories in this book is that some of them come across as incredibly insensitive if not downright offensive.
Now, look, we absolutely love the 1st amendment and want to see it preserved. You saying something shouldn't be the end of your life or your livelihood. We are not for canceling everyone who says something we don't like or agree with, nor do we condone throwing someone under the bus for something they said or did over ten years ago when times were different and they were younger/less wise. You have the right to say what you're going to say. The problem is that what you say does affect others, and they equally have the right to express their feelings about your words.
The choice of language and the crudeness in this book is abysmal. We're not just talking about swearing or a few lewd jokes here or there, we're talking about the actual use of racially insensitive and offensive terms. We get that these stories were written at a different time, before Trayvon Martin, before Ferguson, before George Floyd. We also get that the author is in no way, shape, or form promoting violence or hate, however we can't ignore the hurt and the history behind these words simply because they're used in jest and intended to show the incompetence or ignorance of a character. The truth is, it was very unneeded and unnecessary.
That kind of thing needs to be EARNED. If you want to write about a group of people being carted off on trains to concentration camps, your story and its characters better have earned it. If you want to use a racially insensitive term to put across that a character is ignorant or that a community is in turmoil, there better be some real coming-to-Jesus redemption moments or a comeuppance of some sort. You don't just point and laugh at it, then say, “So silly! Wasn't that so silly? He didn't know what that word meant. Haha!”
The story in question is incredibly short and not given nearly enough time and room to breath. If you're going to confront the issue of racism, then do so, but treat the topic with the care and respect that it deserves.
Another similar issue is how religion is treated with such disdain. There's a particularly offensive story (some kinda stage play that was actually performed apparently) in which the angels consider throwing the souls of the dead into a black hole because religion is meaningless, implying in this story that God stopped caring a long time ago and that Christ's sacrifice accomplished nothing. They even comment dismissively on Saddam Hussein's religion as if Saddam Hussein is somehow the best representative of all Muslims, then feel the need to comment on how George Bush and Tony Blair started the problems in the Middle East because why the heck not? Look, we get being funny by poking fun at the things people believe and at current events, but these jokes just come across as such a mean-spirited low blow. They are incredibly distasteful.
The other stories in the book are also pretty unremarkable and forgettable. There's almost nothing really to grasp onto. There's no character so compelling that we actually care what happens to them. There's one story in which—for no reason other than the writer wanted it to happen—a character appears to brandish and fondle their genitalia while acting inappropriately in a pub to the cheering and jeering of those in attendance. There's so much emptiness: so much empty sexuality (with no payoff such as building character relationships), so much empty conflict and tension. So much emptiness. It's so difficult to recommend this book for anything other than its art (which is occasionally nice) and its inclusion of comic sans font, the greatest font ever made.
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