Bash Bash Revolution
By Douglas Lain
Paperback, 293 pages
2018, Nightshade Books
Thank you to Skyhorse Publishing for sending me this book for free in exchange for my honest review.
Matthew Munson’s dad has been in and out of his life thanks to his work on a powerful AI system for the government. Matt has since dropped out of high school to spend his time playing his favorite game, Bash Bash Revolution, for money. When his dad shows up out of the blue, Matt learns the truth behind the project he’d been working on.
While I was wild about the concept of this book, it didn’t pay off and I made the decision to DNF this at the halfway point.
I was confused about what the hell was going on from page one, but I figured if I stuck it out, all would be revealed. As I progressed, I changed my thought to, well, some will be revealed, right? After that, it became clear that I was going to be perpetually lost when it came to the plot. Sure, I understood that Matt liked to play what was essentially Super Smash Brothers and smoke weed with some people with odd names. And yeah, I understood that his dad showed up out of the blue, with at least one earbud in at all times, spouting literal nonsense. What I also understood was that Matt didn’t stop to say, “Hey Dad, what in the fuck are you saying?” or “What in the fuck are you doing, Dad?”
For example, Matt randomly runs into his dad when he should be in school and when Matt asks if his dad is going to tell his mother, his dad responds by trying to do a handstand. Matt doesn’t repeat his question or ask his dad what he’s doing. Instead, we get:
He did another handstand, this time in the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the curb, and started walking.
“Follow me,” [Matt’s dad] said. “We’re on a schedule.” With both earbuds in there wasn’t any trouble.
Dad was still walking on his hands when the number 82 bus pulled up right in front of him. The doors opened and Dad did a backflip onto the bus just as the doors opened.
It’s noted that the bus driver doesn’t notice the stunt and I assume that’s because most people are plugged into this AI program that Matt’s dad worked on. Goggles and earbuds are mentioned, but I was never crystal clear on how people connected to the program. Did the driver not notice because he was looking at something else on the AI? How could he drive a bus then?
Matt seems to be pretty sane and he constantly mentions how he doesn’t want to plug in or play games with the AI. Matt does wonder (in hindsight I guess) why he didn’t ask his dad about his stunt and then says he must be an egomaniac. That felt like a flimsy reason. It left me feeling like I was missing a large chunk of information. I wanted to understand Matt’s lack of reaction so badly.
When Matt wasn’t following his dad around, he was playing BBR money matches. If any of you have played Super Smash Brothers, the game in the book is very familiar. The characters are different, but it sounds like the moves are similar and the concept is basically the same. I’m assuming this was on purpose, but even this puzzled me. The book is set in 2017, mentions Trump as president and has some sort of advanced AI where people can fully plug into VR and immersive experiences. But everyone still plays GameCube? I don’t think it’s wildly popular, so the year being current threw me off.
But probably it doesn’t matter all that much because the matches are boring anyway:
In the second game, I played defensively, watched out for Ted’s attacks, and found his weaknesses. Ted could barely L-cancel. He didn’t cliff attack and rarely used his shield. All I had to do was not get too close, hang back, and wait for openings.
Snore! And I like video games! Also, not getting too close and hanging back are the same, buddy.
Another detail that initially lured me in was that the book would be told via social media posts. I figured there would be some interesting design elements and different media depicting different types of social media. Instead, the book reads like a novel broken into shorter paragraphs broken up by timestamps and the occasional date change. There are headers that say “Facebook posts” and “messenger log” but there’s almost no distinction between the two. The FB posts tend to be longer, but they left me wondering why he was using his FB like a diary. I think I only came across one instance where he wrote about people’s response to a post. If he was pouring out all this shit about how weird his dad has been, I would imagine there would be more interaction with whoever is reading these posts. The messenger log I eventually found out were his chats to his ex-girlfriend, who wasn’t responding, and sometimes the AI, Bucky.
I was too frustrated and confused to want to continue writing. I didn’t like or connect with Matt. He’s apparently one of few people not connected to the AI system, but rather than make him compelling, it makes him boring. He seems resigned to his situation, in that he takes no actions to change it or to really question his dad, yet he goes on social media and bitches about it constantly. Ok, I realize there are real people who do this, but I don’t want to read about them!
Constant confusion, the feeling that I had missed a critical detail or plot point and an unlikeable narrator led me to quit this book. I’m disappointed because I was very interested in the premise. Perhaps the end has some crazy twist, but I wasn’t willing to journey that far. I can’t say I would recommend it, but I’m willing to bet that there are those of you who would grasp whatever the concept is much sooner than I did.