October 10, 2015

Quicksand - Steve Toltz

Simon & Schuster, Sept. 15, 2015.

Three Stars

Toltz’s second novel is a dark, outrageous comedy filled with oddball adventures and laugh out loud one-liners. The narrator, Liam, is a struggling writer who eventually quits struggling and becomes a cop. That is, until he realizes he has the perfect muse right in front of him: his best friend Aldo. An accident-prone criminal entrepreneur with a disastrous love life, Aldo provides great inspiration for Liam. His is a life of subversive, unapologetic satire, interspersed with the random thoughts of distorted genius.

The language is cynical, jaded and filled with rambling brilliance – it is like listening to that one drunk friend who thinks he can explain the secrets of the universe. Because the dialogue is so strong, the characters are really the most important part of the novel, with the plot coming in at a far second. With an insanely fast pace, there is a lot of content to Quicksand – there are so many clever quotes that it is almost overkill. I could have used more depth of character alongside a more cohesive plot. Instead, the novel relied mostly on humour and gimmicks.

Because the characters were a bit shallow, I found it hard to connect to them, and to stay involved in the book. I was caught up reading this from the start, but the story started to drag towards the end. Part I, narrated by Liam, is more relatable in his observations of madness, while Part II in Aldo’s voice soon deteriorated into unreliable nonsense. This creates a strong delineation between the two characters, but I enjoyed Liam much more. Overall, I think both parts could have been edited down to the basics, and had those basic elements fleshed out instead of just throwing in more conflict.

Quicksand shows us the dark side of human nature – and confronts us with the fact that we find it funny. It is dense and exhausting, but more than anything it is laugh out loud humour combined with the darkest of tragedy, which is a rare thing to pull off. Quicksand is a whole new world of aphorisms for the modern mind.

I received this book for free from Simon & Schuster and Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

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