AUTHOR: Marshall Moore
PUBLISHER: Signal 8 Press
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 196 pages
Fantasy - Contemporary/Urban
Seth Harrington is an ordinary young man with an extraordinary ability: he can become completely undetectable. Unseen, unheard, unknown. And he can make others see things in ways contrary to reality. But he doesn't use this power as a superhero would. Rather, he uses it to commit petty crimes, like use a movie ticket stub as money or steal a bottle of cheap alcohol.
Bitter Orange is not the tale of a normal man who becomes a hero, or even a special man with special powers. Rather, his life is as mundane as it gets, and so are the lives of everyone he knows. His paranormal ability is the one remarkable thing about him, and this drives much of his character throughout the novel. Like many people who have yet to settle into the routine of normal adulthood, Seth doesn't really know who he is or what he's supposed to be doing with his life, and this is reflected in how he uses his powers. He turns invisible to creep on the homes of "normal" people and uses a one dollar bill to pay for a cell phone. Drifting through life, his morals and values are as gray as fog.
Moore writes with a sharp, snappy voice, giving his characters lively yet cynical voices that spring from the page. I think many people will relate to Seth's point of view as he both mocks the lives of others and seeks purpose in his own. He's not an admirable character, but rather one who is remarkable in his unremarkable-ness. This lends Bitter Orange a touch of realism even though the premise takes it into the realm of fantasy. What makes this novel especially interesting, to me, is its portrayal of the everyday and its lack of moralizing or melodramatics. Too often, characters in "superhero" type situations fall into the rut of being perfect, if tormented, people who always, always do the right thing. It gets mundane, and Bitter Orange offers an intriguing alternative to the Hollywood trope that has seeped into literature.
The story is somewhat slow-paced at the beginning, but toward the latter part of the novel, twists abound and expectations are turned on their heads. Overall, Bitter Orange is an entertaining and enjoyable read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marshall Moore is the author of several books: The Concrete Sky (Haworth Press, 2003); Black Shapes in a Darkened Room(Suspect Thoughts Press, 2004); An Ideal for Living (Lethe Press, 2010); The Infernal Republic (Signal 8 Press, 2012); and Bitter Orange (Signal 8 Press, 2013).