Insane-O-Tron by Nick Alverson

Insane-O-Tron

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Alverson’s debut is a collection of six darkly humorous short stories highlighted by dragons, earwigs, superintelligent dinosaurs, and a talking, floating piece of hair.

Readers will want to prepare themselves for this series of bizarre tales, ranging from farce to poop humor. In “The Family Family,” TV writer Scott Scotterson, known for his exploitative work, is hired by Alive Network Vice President Rasor Sharp to save a ratings-plummeting family show. His strategy is to pad the script with a dog-poo bandit and a scene of the father pouring hot mashed potatoes down his pants. Similarly, Tommy Walker-Walker in the title story, along with Harry the talking “haircut,” sets about thwarting a scientist bent on destroying humanity. This entails an undercover gig as a janitor at The Dirty Fisherman, whose filthy restrooms more than earn the restaurant its name. Alverson favors the satirical as well as the scatological. The writer behind the hit series, for example, is crazier than his material, getting inspiration from genital pain (self-inflicted or otherwise). The other stories in Alverson’s collection have less viscera and excreta but the same amount of edge. “Mallard Quackenbush,” the book’s best, tells of Peter Hunter, who doesn’t want 16-year-old daughter Jane dating the titular duck, since Peter considers ducks untrustworthy. It’s surprisingly sweet, centering on a father’s genuine concern for his daughter and his (relevant) childhood trauma. Alverson, too, avoids anthropomorphizing Mallard, who quacks and flies like any other duck but with an endearing personality that’s based on pure duckness. Parody throughout is sometimes unsubtle, like a Macrosoft computer or a Better Dwellings and Yards magazine. But the stories overall are frequently charming, including the playful bugs in “The Perfect Day” and the lonely plastic pumpkin in “Terry.” The final tale, “Brave Pony,” follows Gooch the pony, who may be able to save all the ponies in Pony Land from a fire-breathing dragon. It ends predictably but is undeniably amusing, concluding the book with an appropriately comedic send-off.

Stories of highbrow farce gleefully doused in lowbrow hilarity.

Pub Date: July 15th, 2015
Page count: 173pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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