Book Review – Enablers Anonymous by Nico Laeser

I really like Nico Laeser’s writing. He’s got a smooth, easy style that sucks you in and brings the story to life. I’ve already reviewed Skin Cage and Harmonic: Resonance and just like those two books, Laeser brings his trademark wordsmithery to Enablers Anonymous. Also, just like Skin Cage and Harmonic: Resonance, Enablers Anonymous is hard book to drop into a single category. That’s not a bad thing. Genre bending is a very good thing to see in a writer. Witness Kurt Vonnegut, a man who I still struggle to categorize, but whose works I absolutely adore.

Maybe that’s why I like Laeser’s books so much. Just like real life, they defy the petty attempts of humans to shelve them. As such, they’re best left on the coffee table for more people to read and experience.

Enabler’s Anonymous follows the life and times of a self described loser. A fuck-up who has few (if any) fucks left to give. Life being the chaotic maelstrom that it is, Jimmy winds up doing more than he ever thought he could. As the old song (and saying) goes, “Only cream and bastards rise”. Our hero fakes it until he makes it and finds himself standing atop a self-help empire and wondering not only how he got there, but whether or not he even deserves it.

It’s part Fight Club (without the fighting) and part Catcher In The Rye and part sequence of events that seem so realistic, you can’t help but wonder why this hasn’t happened to you.

Toss in an interesting group of supporting characters, including a group of fantasy gamers, the smarmiest boss on Earth, and a coffee cup that brings a delightful bit of irony, and you’ve got a cracking good tale.

“By now, everyone knows the name James King. 
 
They see me on top of this block-tower pedestal, and it seems they’re all trying to knock it down, scraping away the lies I used to glue it all together.
 
I went from warehouse loser, worst employee of the month, to self-help superstar and media flavor of the month, using the tried and tested method—fake it until you make it.
 
What I made was a media monster. Now, an angry mob is at my door, wielding pitchforks and flaming torches, screaming, “Down with the Placebo Messiah!”
 
Ignore what the critics, and my absentee shoulder angel, tell you—I’m not all bad. Come in and help yourself to the complimentary food, but go easy on the coffee creamer or you’ll be up all night. It’s time for me to confess the true version of my story—I’m about to tell all.*
 
*including where to find the tastiest breakfast wraps in town.”

enablers

Get your copy here

Follow Nico on Twitter

Nico’s also an artist and musician (which makes me feel humble and pretty boring)

Book Review – Harmonic: Resonance by Nico Laeser

Aside from the fact that this is a review of a Nico Laeser book, this post is special because it’s the first time for a new feature I call “Clever Answers to Stupid Questions”. Every author interview has the same set of questions: Why did you start writing? What inspired this story? Are you really this awesome in real life? (It seemed like a good idea at the time, A night of drunken debauchery, Yes). Writers are good at those kinds of questions so I wanted to try throwing some curve balls and let the writers flex their muscles a bit. For any book I review (and for books where I can get in contact with the author), I’ll give the author the choice to play. If they’re not interested, no worries. So, stick around after the review and see Nico’s “Clever Answers to Stupid Questions.” It’s kind of like the shawarma scene in Avengers.

The Review

This is the second of Nico’s books I’ve read (the first was Skin Cage) and just like Skin Cage, Harmonic: Resonance does a wonderful job of taking the familiar and turning it on its head. And kicking it around a little. Then asking “are you alright?” just before poking the familiar in its eyes and tweaking its nose. His books are smooth and easy to read but will stick with you for weeks. They’re the Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters of the literary world.

Harmonic: Resonance begins at the end. Literally and figuratively. The first lines echo events from almost the end of the book and the book starts at the end of what we would call normal. It’s an excellent genre-bending story (genres are for suckers) that takes us through the end and well into the new beginning. It’s the first in a series with Harmonic: Dissonance coming sometime in 2016.

The story is told from Emily’s point-of-view, a deep focus on a young woman stuck in the middle of extraordinary events. The world burns and out of the ashes come the ghosts. Normal people – everyday folks like you and me – change as a result and the world changes with them. Because, after all, it’s people that make the world what it is. Harmonic: Resonance is a story of change and how we’re dragged, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the resultant new world.

It’s a masterfully crafted story that looks at how we react to change, especially when that change is extraordinary. In the final analysis, some will call Harmonic: Resonance a horror story. Others will call it a survival story. Still others will point at the action or the quest or politics. None of them will be wrong, but in my mind it will still be a story about change. And change is a terrifying thing. Recall the words of the prophet Garth Algar: “We fear change”. Those words were as true in the 1990s as they are now. Even without the ghosts and the demons the general end of civilization, change is a terrifying thing.

Harmonic: Resonance is a great story that drags you in and shows you a world gone mad through the eyes of one young woman who is forced to accept the changes and learn to deal with them.

The blurb:

“The whole world waits for the gates of Hell to open; at least half of them wait on their knees, praying for it to be quick, praying to a god not even the dead can say exists.
I have done all I can to prepare. All I can do now is wait with the rest. I don’t know if anyone will make it through, or if anyone will ever listen to this recording. I’m sure everyone’s version of events will be different, but the end will most likely be the same for us all. They are everywhere now, strange variations of the basic demonic form—horns, talons, and teeth. They too are waiting for the transition, the next convergence.
My name is Emily. I am twenty-three years old, and I will probably not make it to twenty-four. I don’t know what I’m hoping to achieve with this recording, if anything, but I have no one left to talk to, so you’ll have to do.”

 

Copyright 2015 (I think) by Nico Laeser. Just a side note, he does all his covers, including the illustrations. Check out his tumblr for more.

Copyright 2015 (I think) by Nico Laeser. Just a side note, he does all his covers, including the illustrations. Check out his Tumblr for more.

Get Harmonic: Resonance here

Clever Answers to Stupid Questions

I wrote up a set of seven completely ridiculous questions and let Nico pick and choose what he wanted. Here are the results.

1). Why?

42

2). If the Hokie Poky really is “what it’s all about”, explain how you have used it in your daily life.

Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo.

3). Why do tornados always hit trailer parks?

Because a house with wheels is way more fun to blow around. (Why, if your house has wheels, would you remain in a place called Tornado Valley?)

4). Super strength or super speed?

Superposition 

5). What’s your favorite video game?

Fallout

Book Review: Skin Cage by Nico Laeser

There’s a line in this book that triggered a memory of a dream I had many years ago after my dad died.

“Maybe when we are ready to let go of our memories, we are allowed to move on.’

Now I can’t get the dream or the line out of my head.

That’s the kind of book Skin Cage is; the haunting melody of forgotten dreams and things we should have left behind but clutch tightly to ourselves in a vain attempt to maintain some sense of self in a twisting environment.  But in the final analysis, you’re never who you were.  Like trying to cross the same river twice, you will always become the sum of an ever-shifting array of values from your past.

“Daniel Stockholm was fifteen years old when a parasite hijacked his brain, rendering him paralyzed and reliant on machines that run day and night to keep him alive. For nine years, Danny has been confined within a biological prison with only two small windows, through which to view the world around him; a silent witness to the selfless compassion of some and the selfish contrivance of others. When the malicious actions of care worker, Marcus Salt, threaten to push Danny farther from the ones he loves, and deeper into the dark recesses of his skin cage, he is left with only one option. He must find a way out.”

I had to chew on this book overnight to come up with a review that would do it justice.  It’s an engaging story, especially considering for the first part of it our hero largely cannot communicate with anyone at all.  He’s a pure sensory input with little to no output capabilities at all, but Daniel is not without skills honed from years of being stuck in his skin cage.  The first part of the book is great.

The middle and end of the book are phenomenal, but you’ll just have to read it to find out why.

Skin Cage is well written, engaging, and difficult to put down.  Physically it’s easy to read, the text is smooth and Nico has an excellent command of language.  The mental aspects of reading are more difficult.  It’s the kind of story you’ll continue to think about long after you’ve finished it and that’s a rare thing in a book.

It’s the kind of book I wish I could write.

©2015, Nico Laeser

©2015, Nico Laeser

As an aside, not only is Nico a bang-up writer, he’s an amazing illustrator.  The illustration for the cover is one of his works.  If you want to see some more of his art, check out his Tumblr feed.

Follow Nico on Twitter (his banner on Twitter is one of his prints, too, and is among the most amazing pictures ever made)

Buy a copy of Skin Cage (it’s available in ebook and print)