Book Review – Lost at the Con by Bryan Young

I should probably start this with some sort of a NSFW warning, even though I’m going to try to behave myself… especially since the book is.

Here’s the thing about this review.  I don’t have a clue what to say about it.  No a clue. So if the rest of this review feels like I’ve been babbling, well, you’ve been warned.

I met Bryan Young at a convention a couple months back, and he gave me his book to review.  I had heeded the warning from Janine Spendlove (check elsewhere on our blog for reviews of her stuff) about how this book wasn’t “age appropriate” (meaning illegal stuff happened), but I was also told by both of them that it was a funny book and I should read it.

I feel the need to throw in there that Bryan is her best friend and they’re label mates (or however you phrase that in the publishing world) aside from this book, which Silence in the Library will not publish.

So here’s the gist of the book.  Cobb (I’ve already forgotten his first name, and I finished this book less than a day ago) is a washed up journalist and poor excuse for a man.  He’s really good at booze, not so much at keeping his sort of girlfriend Laurie out of the pants of men that weren’t him, and really just a piece of shit.  So when his editor sends him on a trip to Griffin*Con, a geek con in Atlanta, instead of to some political assignment, which is his beat, the shit hit the fan, but he went because he wanted to keep his paycheck.

So fast forward to getting to the con, and all he’s done so far is bitch about the local geek population, drink – a lot, and whine about his poor miserable excuse for a life.  The problem is that up to this point I didn’t feel a damn bit of anything for this guy, except a bit of bile in the back of my throat.  Unlike the sympathetic bad guys that we love to hate, hate to love, or a little bit of both, this guy is just a jackass.  He drinks because he’s too much of an asshole to do much else. He screws up with Laurie because he’s too much of an asshole to do much else.  He puts up with his boss because he’s too much of an asshole to do much else.

You see my point.

It’s not like… Loki, who we can all feel a little bit sorry for because Odin’s not actually his dad, or Jabba the Hut, who is at least funny looking.  It’s just an arrogant waste of humanity.

But the funny thing is that, even with no redeeming quality whatsoever, I found myself on page 50 before I realized what had hit me.   And the next time that I touched the book, I was suddenly on page 100… and it was page 170 before there was *any* redeeming quality that would make me give a shit about this guy.

Even moreso, the MC *knows* he’s a waste of humanity – and doesn’t care to do all that much about it.

So, the book starts with Cobb getting the assignment and having a fleeting thought about how much he probably should love Laurie if he cared to think about it.

– side note – if I were Laurie, I’d hate the prick, too –

He went to Atlanta, followed some of the freaks that he made fun of most of the time, befriended a homeless guy who became his only friend in life, and went into the con.

Now, keep in mind that this guy is a journalist on assignment, so the book is part book and part his articles.  The first article he writes is about price gouging and how the homeless are exploited for the con.  His homeless buddy Sylvester spawned the article, saying that he helps set stuff up for money.

The next incident includes a panel where they’re talking about slash fic.  We hear Cobb thinking about ways he’d love to slash somebody (it’s written in first person), then he learns what slash fic really is, then he’s outraged that some fat woman would write about Harry Potter and Snape and then…  well, then there’s this moment of moral outrage when he screams at the woman for peddling porn to minors (later he pukes on her, cause it seems like the thing to do).

Have I mentioned yet that I don’t know why I kept reading?  So here’s a bit of background on me.  Being a writer and all, I’ve been to lots of cons.  So I know what goes on there, and I know what this guy’s seeing, and it’s not some weird-ass seedy underbelly of the world that only freaks who live in their mother’s basements will ever find interesting.  And Bryan Young is part of this world.  So I’m confused about why he’d want to portray us as a bunch of losers.  Even if it is a bit of satire and humor and whatever else.  Are we *really* that bad to outsiders?  Do they really think we’re the dredges of society who have no hope at ever being awesome?  Cause my friends who do that stuff are engineers and lawyers and teachers and scientists and whatever else.  And it’s because of geekdom and fandom that we know multiple languages, create and act and do, and actually have a place to belong.

Oh, and expect lots of Star Wars references, because apparently the MC is an arrogant prick who hates geekdom but he knows what Star Wars is.

Maybe Bryan thinks because the MC is such a piece of shit, nobody’s going to care about what Cobb blows out of his pie hole?

The book has its moments.  I mean, at the beginning of the con, Cobb – drunk, of course – finds somebody cosplaying as Steampunk Abraham Lincoln, although he doesn’t know what steampunk is, or cosplay, and I’m impressed he could manage the Lincoln part.  So he’s convinced that Lincoln is a robot back from the dead and out to kill him, which makes some funny moments in the book; in his drunken stupid, he even introduces himself as Jeff Davis, which furthers his paranoia.  At one point, Lincoln gives a speech that’s totally worth reading.   And “Abraham Lincoln, a homeless man, and an asshole…” have a hell of a moment thanks to some jocks and women dressed up as anything skimpy and sexy.  And booze.  Have I mentioned that there’s a lot of booze in this book?  (And drugs at one point…)

It’s just hard to get through the start of the book (and by start, I mean 170 pages of the book).  Also, I don’t know if its because of first person or what, but I had a lot of trouble feeling the MC.  I mean, all we establish about him is that he’s an asshole.  It doesn’t exactly leave much for us to feel warm and fuzzy about, or to relate to while we’re reading.  I didn’t feel the MC *or* the writer, which is (IMO) a flaw of most people who write in first person.

The weirdest part of this whole thing is that even though I don’t have a lot good to say about the book, I am ending the review with the following statement.  I’m rating this book on the lowest possible end of four stars.  I just don’t know why.

[end note – if you think the author sounds interesting, you may want to check out some of his other work *before* this.  I’ve read a bit of his other stuff and it’s nothing like this…]

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