While it is sometimes nice to pick up a book by a familiar author and in general know what kind of story you’re about to get, I do appreciate an author who takes chances and tries something very different from what they’ve written previously. Stringers, by Chris Panatier, feels like a risk and one I’m not sure pays off.
Ben Sullivan knows a lot of useless facts. Especially facts about sex (and very specifically not just human sexuality) and the biological functions of a cornucopia of living creatures. He doesn’t know why he knows these things – he just does. Just as he also knows about The Chime, which is … well, I’m not going to give it away.
Ben’s best friend is Patton, a dude generally pretty stoned, which is maybe a blessing given what they encounter. For all his stone-ishness, Patton remains a loyal friend and the two of them experience a whole lot of strangeness when they’re abducted by aliens.
I was very mixed on this book. This could very easily be titled Ben and Patton’s Excellent Adventure – it’s got that kind of vibe to it. But I’m not a fan of that movie, frankly.
The book is full of humor. But it’s middle grade boy humor – sex and farts and other bodily functions kind of humor. And there will surely be an audience for this (beyond the middle grade boys) but it’s really not for me. I’ve seen this compared to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – and I can totally understand this connection, but let’s be really clear … this is not a classic.
I did like the character of Ben Sullivan. Patton at least had the endearing quality of faithfulness, and their journey had some intriguing promise, but the plot then seemed to take a back seat to the humor.
In the author’s note for readers at the start of the book, Panatier writes: “Don’t skip the footnotes. There’s a code for a million dollars in one of them. Okay, that’s a lie, but still. Read the footnotes.” And so I did. At least for awhile. I read the first 53 footnotes – which according to my Kindle was only 20% of the book.
Reading footnotes (or endnotes … these are endnotes in this book) is a process – it’s a little more complicated with an older version of the Kindle, but whether physical or digital, the reader needs to flip to or click on the note and then back again. This takes me out of the flow of the story so it had better be important. And yeah, sometimes these were important. Sometimes. Other times, it was the author (or was it the narrator of the story?) trying to be funny. That endnote #53 for instance … the boys are being introduced to an alien. “”This here is Ghuxch-hexer-chchch,” said Apat.” And we’re taken away from the moment so that the author (or is it the narrator … I’m still not sure) can have us read, “Gesundheit.” Yes, that’s what you’re getting yourself into.
We do get to learn what a ‘stringer’ is – through the use of a parable with Jed Clampett as the central figure in the story – and it does tie in to the aforementioned abundance of random knowledge.
Again, I appreciate that Panatier tried something new, but this goofy humor didn’t work for me and it’s so chock-full of it that the more interesting story gets lost.
Looking for a good book? Stringers by Chris Panatier is a sci-fi humor story. If you like this kind of thing, then you might want to check out this book.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Chris Panatier
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 374 pages