Monday, October 15, 2012

Unexpected Applause: Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship

As I said in my last review, I haven't been having the greatest luck with books lately. Especially with traditionally published books. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that traditionally published books are bad; I'm also not trying to say they're good. I am saying that just because a book has been traditionally published doesn't make it good. Likewise, independently published books are not bad just because they couldn't figure out how to get published traditionally. Which does not make me trust them, in general, any farther than I can throw them. Which, in actuality, is not that far at all since most of them are digital only and can't be thrown.

All of that said, I have just, I mean just as in less than 15 minutes ago (as I write this) finished reading the best book I've read all year. Really. Possibly in the last two years. Heck, it may be the best book I've read since The Sparrow (and Children of God), and that was a while ago. What you should take away from this is that it was great. So let's get to it.

The book: Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship
The author: Bryan Pedas
As always, let's start with the technicals. Which will be extremely short as this is the best edited independent book I've ever seen. Other than mine and maybe better than mine. The House on the Corner is a lot longer, though, and I'm not gonna take the time to run a percentage comparison. Let's just say that Demetri is close to flawless. I only remember one dropped word in the whole book, which is extremely impressive, and even the commas where pretty right on with no distracting mistakes. The editing gets a good solid A bordering an A+. Maybe an A+. Let's just say I was impressed.

The writing is incredible. The only drawback is that the premise of the story may be a barrier to some readers. It's like the movie Lars and the Real Girl, beautiful and completely under appreciated. I understand the under appreciation, because I can understand that people see what it's about and respond with "that's dumb" without ever giving it a chance, and Demetri is like that in some ways, but it's also a beautiful story, and people who dismiss it because of its premise will be missing out. And, no, I'm not going to tell you about the premise, you can clink the above link and go read it. You'll be one step closer to buying it that way, and you really should buy it.

Here's where I knew I had something beyond just the good on my hands:
Flip-flops echo on a darkly stained tile floor as the fluorescent lights give a sleepy-eyed flicker, bathing Demetri in stale light. The faucet water runs yellow--maybe it's being kissed by the light, maybe it's always been that color--and fills his hands on its way up to the sharp, patchy stubble beneath his cheeks and chin. A row of bathroom utensils lay along the counter like surgical tools in a low budget horror flick, and Demetri reaches past the toothbrush and the nail clippers to the disposable razor, which is anything but "disposed of" in its five years of dull, rusted life.
That's in the first chapter, at the 2% mark according to my Kindle app. The image is vibrant and paints an enticing image. It's one of those passages that I look at and just think "wow, that's excellent writing." I knew I was going to like the book at that point, and I wasn't wrong.

There are times it made me LOL. Literally, I mean. I tried not to, because Demetri is not for kids, and my kids were around, and they always want to know what I'm laughing at if I happen to be laughing, but there were several points in the book where I just could not hold it in. Like when Demetri receives the crate. So there are those  moments of humor that are hard not to respond to, but the book is also very touching, and you really want Demetri to pull things together.

What is most surprising, though, is the amount of tension I felt as I approached the end of the book. I really didn't know where Pedas was going with the story, and I kept envisioning all these horrible things that could happen, and that's a pretty impressive feat for a book that is, essentially, a dark comedy. And, no, I'm not going to tell you whether you will like the ending. Go read it! I mean it.

There's only one real drawback the book has: the title. But, here's the thing, I like the title. The title is appropriate. I just think that it puts a barrier between the work and a lot of readers, but it gives an impression of the book that it is, well, juvenile, and it's totally not. So, if you don't know what you're getting into, you might think you're getting something that you're not, and a lot of people that might like the book may skip right over it thinking it's something geared toward kids. I don't really have a better idea for the title; I just think that, knowing most readers, they will let it get in the way of reading the book.

Title aside, I give this book an A+. The main characters are real and fully realized as are many of the side characters. A few of the side characters are caricatures, but they are the caricatures that we know and have had to deal with in real life, so they never come across as stereotypical. This is a great book, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.


  1. At first glance, no, not a book I would read, but I'm just curious enough to go check it out an Amazon.

  2. I'm with Alex. At first glance, I thought this was a children's book and thought, "Don't have time." But after reading the excerpt, I sang a different tune. This is why I love to write--have to write. Prose this descriptive and thrilling makes me wanna run to the keyboard.

    Excellent review, Andrew. I, too, will be checking out this one on Amazon. :)

  3. Thanks again for the read and the review, and I'm so truly honored to hear that this was the best book you've read all year. I know just how many books you read, so really, that just blows me away!

  4. Between that title and the cover you'd think it was a kid's picture book.

  5. Looking at the cover, it seems written for kids.

  6. I agree: completely seems like a kid's book -- they need Rusty for a cover artist!

    But curse you, Andrew Leon, because your references to Lars and the Real Girl and refusal to tell me about the plot are going to make me click that link and be one step closer to buying the book. You are Temptation, Embodied.

  7. OK. That sounds awesome. I would buy it right now but for various reasons I am on a cash-only budget and do not have access to my debit card. I will have to ask Sweetie to give me $3 to put into the CD-ROM drive of my computer and then download the book.

    But I have added it to my wishlist.

  8. I like the sound of this. The next time I'm up for a little zany action, I'll look this up. Scratch that. I'll bookmark it. :)

  9. I'm glad to hear that you like it and I agree, the title is good and so is the book. I've been away for a while so I'm sorry I missed some posts. I may be in later this week or on the weekend. Have a good week Andrew!

  10. Alex: I think a lot of people will pass it by on first glance, which is too bad and proves that you can't judge a book by its cover.

    Alyssia: Bryan does a great job of evoking mood with his prose. Let me know if you decide to pick it up.

    ABftS: Well, as many books as I read, it's never as many as I want to read. Thank you for writing it and for giving me something better than most of what I've been reading (especially from TP).

    PT: You would, but it makes sense in the context of the book.

    Michael: Same comment as the one for PT.

    Briane: Well, let me know if she'll let you. I don't have a computer that takes bills; do they have those now? Man, I am so behind!

    David: Good!

    Anne: Glad to see you back!

  11. You're right, that title would probably have me skipping over it. And it's a shame, because it could be a book I would enjoy.

    I recently picked up a semi self-pubbed book (author started his own publishing company and then released his novel). And it's one of the better books I've read this year too. The cover and title suck -- Expect Civilian Casualties -- but it's got a really clever character who you aren't quite sure if what he's going through is real or he's hallucinating. Haven't finished it yet, but I will.

  12. L.G.: Well, I'll be waiting to hear what you think of it when you get to the end. My TBR stack is too high, right now, for me to just throw it on, though.
    I'd say if he started his own company just to do his own book that that is still self-pubbed.