Friday, February 17, 2012

Review of Trailer Park Juggernauts

If I gave you five seemingly random words like, Maraca, Squid, Kismet, Reaper, and Wings, would you be able to guess what they have in common? Unless you’ve read the eclectic and entertaining short story collection, Trailer Park Juggernauts, by Jesse Anderson I doubt you would have a chance at guessing.

Just like the five words above, Jesse Anderson has filled Trailer Park Juggernauts with a variety of  topics, from kitten rescuing angels and Hell-bound overlords to alcohol-fueled squid chasers and Frankensteinish big-girl sitters toting ancient swords. The variety of topics will certainly keep you guessing. Every time I finished a story I knew I was going to be surprised by what the next one was about. Who would expect a gator wrestler to end up in a fight with lightning wielder?

One thing that tied all of Jesse’s stories together was the type of characters he employed. Not to say that his characters were too similar, because they most definitely were not, but each of them were, as Jesse puts it, “hillbillies with superpowers.” The characters hailed from places like the Deep South, Alaska, New Mexico, and similar areas away from the big cities and supposed refinement. For anyone who has lived or visited these places, you’ll definitely recognize them, and chuckled at some of the local oddities locals know all too well. Jesse’s accurate descriptions and skillful use of familiar culture brought each setting to life, and his unique choices in characters and even more unusual special gifts turned the familiar into something completely new.

Reviewing every story in Trailer Park Juggernauts would make this review way too long, so I’ll touch on my three favorites and then move on to the book as a whole. So here we go…

In Kismet, I really enjoyed the simplicity of its beginning. Checking the mail is nothing unusual, but a young woman checking her mail at night, gives it an edge. Add in a kitten named Monday, purposely injured, and a lurking presence unseen by Catelynn, and I was eager to figure out what Catelynn’s power was, because I suspected she was going to need it. Rescuing an injured kitten certainly seems angelic, but only after taking it on a disastrous trip to the vet do you realize just how true that might be. I won’t give away the ending, but I did appreciate that softhearted Catelynn doesn’t falter when avenging Monday’s abuse.

Karma’s Harbinger, was one of those stories that I started reading, wondering how bored Britney, sitting in her aunt’s stifling salon, was going to turn into something filled with battling superpowers. When Tim Reppord, a recruiting office with cryptic, hidden motives, wanders into the salon I had the feeling the next time they met was going to be interesting. When comparing their revealed superpowers it doesn’t seem very evenly matched. Britney can dole out Karmic punishment, but Reppord has a much more final power. Their clash doesn’t disappoint.

My favorite story out of the whole collection was the last one, which was very well placed by Jesse in my opinion. The Velveteen Maraca was the perfect story to finish on. The opening scene presents a couple meeting with their lawyer to finalize their wills. When the topic of handling their remains when the time comes is brought up and Rowland chuckles at the idea of willing his body to government use I knew I was going to enjoy his story. What I didn’t expect was how his body was going to be used, and the path that would lead him to become the big-girl sitter for Little Monster. I loved the interaction between the two characters. Rowland’s blasé attitude about life isn’t wholly displaced upon stumbling upon the little girl, but the progressive weakening of disinterest makes their relationship even sweeter.

As a whole, Trailer Park Juggernauts was a fun read. I never knew what was coming next, but I like books that surprise me. Jesse obviously has a very creative mind, which shows in his variety of characters and story lines. I’m usually not much of a short story reader unless it’s Poe or Asimov, but like Jesse said in his interview, most of these stories wouldn’t feel the same if they were any longer.

Having said that, I did feel like some of the stories could have been, not necessarily added to, but developed a little more at the end. Roulette in Pestilence, in particular, was engaging through most of the story, but the end seemed to be more of a summary than a concrete ending. I wanted to know more detail about how Tiffany and Shady went about hunting down pimps, and how their mission turned out in the long run.

As a collection of short stories, Trailer Park Juggernauts had stories I really connected with and others that didn’t grab me quite as much. I think the nice thing about short story compilations is that every reader will latch onto the elements that speak to them. Those won’t be the same stories for everyone, but I do think everyone who reads Trailer Park Juggernauts will connect with something different and enjoy the read. It will definitely get the creative side of your mind running around, making you wonder what kind of unique characters and obscure superpowers you could come up with! Maybe we’ll have to start a running post about that. I would love to hear what kind of power my fellow readers and bloggers would bestow opon themselves. If you’re short on ideas, pick up a copy of Trailer Park Juggernauts and I can guarantee you’ll come up with something!

Would I recommend Trailer Park Juggernauts? Yes. If you’re looking for a creative boost, or simply want to get away from the ordinary for a while, then get your copy and start reading.

Who would I recommend this book too? Definitely to those readers who are already fans of short stories, but for those who aren’t I would encourage you to give this a try. You’ll appreciate how much unique story and character development can be squashed into one of Jesse’s stories.  

So if you haven’t already, get your copy of Trailer Park Juggernauts today in Paperback or Kindle