Books

Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick by David Wong: full throttle fun

In trying times, fantastical schlock of the best kind from David Wong is cheering up Chris Deerin

These long months of lockdown have strained the good natures of the most well-adjusted individuals. For those of us with what might be called a more artistic temperament, the challenge of keeping your head has been a daily battle.

Reading has not offered its traditional consolations. I know from social media that I’m not the only one to have their usual patterns disrupted. I’ve found weighty, demanding literature almost impossible to consume – life is currently heavy enough.

It took me a while to find what I needed. I wasn’t going to get along with Dostoyevsky or a thousand heavilyfootnoted pages of David Foster Wallace. Literature, get me out of here:I’ve reached escape velocity with crime noir, science fiction and intelligently witty satire.

I’ve binged on the magnificently unhinged fantasies of Christopher Moore and the captivating alien world-building of Adrian Tchaikovsky; I’ve sampled a wide menu of drawling southern gothic detectives and devoured the superior Cold War espionage novels of Anthony Price.

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But my favourite find has undoubtedly been David Wong. Wong is actually Jason Pargin, an online American humourist whose pseudonym – taken from a villain in one of his early stories – has led to him receiving anti-Chinese hate mail. Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick is his fifth novel and the second in the Zoey Ashe series.

think a mash-up of William Gibson, Sue Townsend and Bill and Ted

Wong has a way with titles. This book’s predecessor was Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits, while his earlier trilogy, based around a pair of slacker alien hunters, were consecutively named John Dies at the End, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It, and What The Hell Did I Just Read?

You’ll either be intrigued or completely turned off by now, but I promise that Wong is worth your attention. His schlocky, free-wheeling speculative fiction is not as lightweight as it sounds – think a mash-up of William Gibson, Sue Townsend and Bill and Ted. The baddies are gormless, the goodies conflicted, the authorities untrustworthy, the patter razor sharp and the pratfalls beautifully constructed.

In Zoe Punches… our sassy, straight-talking heroine, who was raised in a trailer park by a single mother until she unexpectedly inherited a vast criminal empire from her estranged and now deceased father, faces accusations of murder and cannibalism, and of being a power-crazed despot. Someone in the lawless Utah city of Tabula Ra$a is setting her up for a fall, and she must find out who that is before she is ripped to shreds by rebelling natives and/or reanimated corpses.

Wong is a great storyteller, and he imparts warmth, nuance and humanity in a way that amplifies his vibrant humour. In grim times he will lift your spirits.

Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick, by David Wong is on Titan Books, £8.99

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