Firewater

Firewater

by Edward Cohen

Akashic

In a slightly parallel universe, Chief Shelldrake tackles running for president as the first Native American candidate. His day job involves approving Indian claims to restore lost lands, and drinking more Spudka vodka than any normal man could survive. He’s surrounded by family and supporters in this scattershot story of the fictitious “Triple Revolution” and its prelude. This revolution removes the military and corporations running America, and replaces them with a natural, “holistic” Indian-run government.

Meanwhile, weird things are going on at the world’s worst fisheries research lab down the coast — devastating hailstorms, massive fish death, and the appearance of the foul Dr. Urbanchuk, a greasy man with a penchant for self-exposure. He’s replaced the hated and ineffectual Dr. Teitel, and all the interns are in a tizzy and afraid they’ll be raped. Or worse, fired from their sub-minimum wage jobs. For most of the book, Chief Shelldrake is planning to visit Skankerville and address the mysterious Die Hards, a crucial first step in his campaign. Who are these people, and what happens in Skankerville? Beats me, the Chief goes from driving down the road to living on the roof of the White House in one massive jump cut, and explanations are NOT forthcoming from the late author, Mr. Cohen.

What we do get is a detailed and loving description of people’s bowel habits and vomiting episodes, making us realize mom WAS right — there are some things polite people don’t discuss in public. Still, all these people and situation are pretty interesting, like the Slurp and Burp Restaurant, where everything served is guaranteed to cause gas, and each seat comes with a whoopee cushion. My favorite character is Shelldrake’s niece Cheryl, who goes oystering in the nude with her friends, only to get arrested by weird little midgets bred by evil genetic researchers to serve as low cost military troops. “Mercetemps” they call them, which is very clever. If you accept the author’s tendency to invent words with little context to interpret them, you can follow the story well enough up to the last few chapters when the Shelldrake candidacy mysteriously goes from a local sensation to a complete victory, then a rout and back again in 5 pages, with no explanation of how or why.

This is the first in Akashic’s “Urban Surrealism” series, and much of the action in the story is dreamlike, incoherent, and unexplained. There’s a manifesto, which might be summarized as “If everyone we hate went away, and all our ideas were implemented immediately, what a wonderful world it would be.” That’s pretty much most political manifestos, and if you cut a lot of slack to the repetitive political grind and anal fixation, you will appreciate the chimeral characters peopling this world. What is inexcusable is the complete mess of an ending this book displays. My guess is the manuscript got dropped, some big chucks blew away, and the residual sheets were given to the typesetter who did the best he could. The ending is a huge disappointment to those who stuck with the story, leaving more questions than answers in this alternate political universe. Satisfaction is NOT guaranteed.

Akashic Books: http://www.akashicbooks.com/

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