What the Luck? by Brian Cramer

What the Luck?

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Cramer’s (One Calvin, 2013, etc.) comic-adventure novel follows a supernaturally lucky American expatriate through Japan’s mysterious underworld.
Bill Brabham was a financial analyst in Houston until he lost his wife, job and professional reputation following a freak accident. In an attempt to rescue his derailed life, he moves to Japan, a country he knows little about, with the goal of working at the Fukushima power plant. Bill spends almost the entire first half of the book wandering around Tokyo, taking in the scenery and learning about Japanese culture. This section contains travelogue-level detail of cuisine and tourist sights, but little in the way of story. Bill quickly learns the Japanese language, and begins to identify with the culture, although he continues to display some amount of cultural ignorance. The actual plot begins midway through the novel, when Bill acquires supernaturally good luck following a visit to a shrine. He soon meets a Japanese man named Kurokawa who possesses a similar gift, and has learned how to control his power so he can transfer good or bad luck to others. The two lucky men subsequently join forces with a spunky teenage girl, Sakura, and Bill’s intriguing new girlfriend, Natsuko, to use the “superpower” to fight social injustices. Cramer does eventually develop an engaging-enough plot: a mystery involving Bill and Kurokawa’s connection to a sect of monks and the tensions between two rival Yakuza clans. The comedic, sitcom-style banter between the four heroes is frequently amusing. However, the timing and tone of jokes often feels a bit off, and the third-person narration is occasionally awkward; there are many asides and repetitions that could have been excised. For example, late in the novel, in the middle of a tense scene, the narrator inexplicably decides to, “pause the narrative in order to reiterate a few relevant points.” Conversely, important issues—such as why Sakura and Natsuko accept the reality of the men’s fantastic power without more skepticism—are never fully addressed.

A somewhat entertaining but plodding international action-farce.
Pub Date: June 20th, 2014
Page count: 236pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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