I was somewhat hoping I wouldn’t enjoy this book so that I could entitle the review Marvellous? Hardly! but, alas, it turned out to be a very enjoyable romp through the madcappery of an all too familiar fictitious setting, so, much to my chagrin, I had to think up a whole new review title. Thank you, Mark A. Rayner, for robbing me of that pithy idea. It was going to be really clever.
As most of us have, from time to time, you’ve likely asked yourself the question: What would happen if Carl Hiassen, William Shakespeare, and Kurt Vonnegut got together for a little mead ‘n snuff party, and a story idea emerged from their wondrous and thoroughly pickled collective minds? Well, I’m delighted to let you know that we can now move on to other such ponderables, as Mr. Rayner has provided the answer to that age old question with his new novel Marvellous Hairy.
Rayner opens his story with such an insane commotion that you immediately (and wisely) pause for a moment to fasten your mental seatbelt, steadfast in the knowledge that, for better or worse, you’ve just accepted a ride from a deranged driver – and one who is likely under the influence of more than one illicit substance. I felt it was a quite considerate gesture to let us prepare ourselves up front in this manner, before we hit the freeway in high gear. Respect.
Hairy is narrated in first person quasi-omniscient style (yes, you read that correctly) by the central character — a mostly normal sort of chap named Rob (that is, more normal than his eclectic group of friends and dubious associates). Rob’s ability to ubiquitously relate the story is explained within the pages, and I found this approach to be not only clever and unique but completely reasonable in an unreasonable sort of way.
The story involves, on one level, a bizarre allegorical battle between the separate reptilian, simian, and human parts of the Triune brain, and how we must somehow cope and flourish, not just within our own consciousness but within society as well, while all 3 types are in control of our thoughts and actions at different times, at different levels, and in different circumstances.
It’s also quite a traditional (I really didn’t expect to be using that word in this review) tale of megalomania, the dangers of rampant, unchecked science, the bonds of love and friendship, monkey sex, and the nature of military cacti.
I think that my being any more specific may do the reader a disservice so I’ll leave it there – suffice it to say that Rayner proves to be a masterful story weaver with a gifted imagination and a remarkable wit. If that’s not enough, a deep social conscience lies beneath it all. Those qualities combined provide for an exciting, hilarious and ultimately fulfilling reading experience. Just don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.
You’ve been warned.
I sensed there was some element of The Odyssey beneath the surface of The Amadeus Net– or maybe The Iliad. I’m not well versed in Homer, but the backgrounds of a few Amadeus characters evoke those classic Greek myths. Regardless of whether I imagined that influence, Amadeus is a fantastic story told very well. The time and labour author Mark Rayner put into creating the characters within these pages is quickly apparent, and their eclectic richness pays off handsomely as the reader becomes deeply concerned with their individual and collective fates.
The story itself concerns Mozart (yes, that Mozart) who, in this fictional world, has a peculiar habit of not dying. As a result, he’s alive and well in the near future, living on an isolated (though thriving) South Pacific island named Ipolis. His identity is, as you would expect, a long kept secret, and he would prefer it remained so. However, some are aware of his gift and view it as a grand opportunity for their own enrichment, and from there the trouble commences.
The story is simultaneously light, deep, silly and poignant. In the hands of a lesser author, an attempt like this could very well become a dispassionate dog’s breakfast. But in Rayner’s deft hands and mind, it leads the reader deep into the city which serves as the setting (and the city itself is actually a character in its own right!), and into the minds, hearts and souls of the characters. It seems a great many novels I read aren’t able to focus on creating more than a couple of full, rich characters surrounded by cardboard plot devices. Not so with Amadeus, and there within, I believe, lies the book’s greatest strength.
These well-constructed characters each become integral to the story’s grand climax, all the while faced with the somber specter of global destruction. Personally, I found myself concerned with the fates of his characters more than the actual planet, and for that I blame Rayner for making me care about them so deeply.
As mentioned, the city itself is in the mix as one of the main characters, observing and occasionally manipulating events, using subtle and not-so-subtle methods to help create a harmonious outcome. Ipolis provides a big-picture perspective that the human characters cannot. It comes across like a Shakespearian muse or benevolent god, though not a fully omnipotent one that could assure its own wishes will come to fruition. It’s very nearly mortal in this regard, thus allowing the reader to sympathize with its plight and feel concern for its frustrations and even its “being.”
If a parallel can be drawn with another Rayner book I have read (and reviewed), Marvellous Hairy, I think it would be that beneath the hectic, comedic surface is a solemn message about man’s inhumanity to man and the horrific results that can occur when callous (or zealously misguided) beings are left to run rampant and hold the rest of mankind at their twisted mercy.
But Amadeus is a thoroughly different book than Hairy (though no less compelling) and this illustrates Rayner’s ability to create completely different yet believable worlds from one novel to the next. Some may take comfort in continuity of tone in an author’s collective works; I tend to admire an author more when he can show me radically different places, persons, and depths. That’s not to say Rayner’s style doesn’t remain consistent; it certainly does.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a fresh and talented author who unabashedly departs from traditional storytelling for more experimental prose, much to the delight and satisfaction of his audience. Congratulations, Mr. Rayner; besides creating another very enjoyable novel, you’ve created a genuine fan in me.