Empire Decayed by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Well, I liked the first volume of The Death And Life of Zebulon Finch well enough, but I found that this one followed a path similar to Kraus' Rotters in that it began wonderfully, only to end as a mere shadow of its former self. It certainly doesn't help that, even more so than its predecessor, Empire Decayed is a giant brick of paper and ink, a collection of smaller stories that build up to the promise of the prologue of At The Edge Of Empire, but don't really meet that premise.
I mean, there's a ton of material to cover - World War II (in both Germany and Japan), creepy fifties suburbia (almost Burtonian in style with its constant repression and dark secretive undercurrents), the sixties with hippies and Black Panthers (some of whom are quick to take Zebulon to task for attempting to appropriate their style and customs, namely calling himself "Zebulon X," to which they respond by calling him "Obnoxious White Motherfucker"), the seventies with a cult who calls themselves "Savages" (don't ask) and the onset of the AIDS crisis, and some shenanigans in a retirement home in the eighties and early nineties, all leading up to the incident that began the first book at the World Trade Center.
Kraus tells the second half of Zebulon Finch's story in the same virtually-sociopathic, perpetually-misanthropic, always-politically-incorrect style, which, while not terribly conducive to a reader's enjoyment, nevertheless highlights that this book really isn't meant for enjoyment. As does the ending, which is an absolute mind-screw of epic proportions that, like much of the rest of the book, feels like a whole bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. How I managed to finish the whole thing, I still have no idea. But finish it I did, and once again, I'm probably going to go forward with reluctance to read another Daniel Kraus book.
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