Thursday, May 30, 2013

REVIEW: Dead Size / Sawney Hatton

TITLE: Dead Size
AUTHOR: Sawney Hatton
PUBLISHER: Self-published

Comedy—Dark Humor

This book was strangely addictive. While not a traditional page-turner in terms of plot, something about the author’s style made it hard to put down, and I ended up finishing it in less than a day.

Third person omniscient. For the most part, the author stays in the head of whoever the key player in the scene is, but sometimes rotates within a section. Each section is written in the author’s distinct narrative voice.

Gulliver Huggens hasn’t had it easy. His family—parents and older brother Dale—were killed in a car crash when he was a child, and he’s a loner. The few people he encounters—his neighbor, his motorcycle dude employer, etc.—think he’s nice enough, if a little weird. Kooky but harmless.

Gulliver’s only companions are the Little People: a race of three-inch tall people with high-pitched voices who live in the walls of his house. In exchange for materials, food, and entertainment (they watch TV and play Scrabble with Gulliver), they cook and clean for him. They’re like little house fairies in Gulliver’s own private fairy tale. Like his famous namesake character, Gulliver finds himself friends with the Lilliputians.

Dead Size opens with Gulliver’s attempts to win the affections of Kat, an attractive, punk rocker-type barista. While things go all right at first, his confession that Little People live in his walls causes her to think him crazy and flee. But Gulliver’s not crazy—is he?

The question of what’s real becomes more convoluted when Gulliver encounters a giant, who claims to represent a race of peaceful colossuses living in the woods near Gulliver’s town. A Brobdingnagian, if you will. The giant tells Gulliver that the Little People carry a disease fatal to his people, and that Gulliver must exterminate them or face the consequences. While Gulliver is initially incredulous, the giant follows up his threat with a series of very real murders, leaving Gulliver torn between killing the only real friends he’s had since his brother’s death and letting the giant wreak havoc on the people around him.

Hatton writes in a distinctive narrative voice, telling the story from an omniscient third person perspective. Infused with dark humor and sarcastic commentary, it’s strangely addictive to read. Unlike the popular show-don’t-tell screenplay-like stories that have become fashionable these days, Dead Size makes the invisible narrator as much a character as Gulliver or Sheriff Boone, the head of local law enforcement who investigates the giant murders. In fact, the satirical lilt with which Hatton writes is reminiscent of a 21st century Jonathan Swift. I think the “telling” aspect of the story works quite well in this case, as it gives the reader the information needed in an entertaining way.

Each of the main characters, who are all quite memorable, is given a back story and perspective that brings them to life on the page. Their personalities seem to be intentionally exaggerated, which fits into the satirical style of the novel. While they may not be entirely realistic, their motivations are well-drawn, and they come across as believable.

The plot of Dead Size takes some twists and turns on its way to the ending, which was rather unexpected. Once the giants entered the picture, I couldn’t stop reading, since I had to know how it would all turn out. Even before that, though, the book was hard to put down. While it’s not a traditional page-turner, the author’s style is strangely addictive. I ended up starting this book one evening, staying up until far past I meant to, and then finishing it the next morning.

This book is well-written and well-edited; I didn’t find any typos or errors.

This book contains some violence and a few sex scenes (mostly a man’s sexual fantasies), but nothing graphic.

Dead Size is Sawney Hatton's debut novel.

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