The Near Future

The Near Future

The Near Future

by Joe Ashby Porter

Turtle Point Press

Here’s an odd little novel about old people in Florida garnished with a slight and unexploited science fiction bent. The scattershot story contains an assemblage of events lacking tension, but filled with eccentric characters and even more eccentric writing.

Vince and Lillian live in one of those fast disappearing trail retirement communities, and have split up over infidelity or pickles or some other item that oldsters worry about. His daughter Denise and her lover Tink arrive, intent on doing some sort of mail fraud somewhere in the Sunshine State. Nothing unusual about that, it happens every day down here. Vince and his kids and his current girlfriend take off on a road trip to Key West, work some fraud, and eventually come home to Manatee, a little worse for wear. Along the way they explore Santeria, Ernest Hemingway, and the meaning of grandchildren.

So what’s going on here? I could never get a grip on why the story was set in a slightly near future, with a few unusual technical advances hanging around the edges but never really driving or explaining any actions. Sure, a computer-generated woman shoots up the Hemingway Look-Alike contest, but that doesn’t justify many of the unused ideas seeded here and there.

Writer Porter has a penchant for very long sentences with some very experimental use of commas. His sentences are often convoluted, splattered with $10 words. I like new words, but had to look up peplum, flaneurs, pinnate, and quite a few more. There are more than a few dead-end trails here, with action and people introduced who seem like they ought to reappear to wrap something up, but never do. Overall, the book reads like a promising draft in need of more organization and polish. However, it will expand your vocabulary, and there is a really neat Paint by Number flamingo scene on the cover. All in all, a book perfectly acceptable for beach reading this summer.

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