Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Done: "Worm" by Anthony Neil Smith

Done: Worm by Anthony Neil Smith, 2015, 978-1937495893 (paper).

Smith printed the ebook with Blasted Heath and the paper version is from Down and Out Books.

Short version:
Guy on the Gulf Coast has no job. Guy goes to North Dakota for oil field work. Guy transports meth for more money. Guy's family moves North to be with Guy. Bad things happen with some mystery thrown inside.

Finn - called Ferret by most people - had no job prospects back on the Gulf Coast. Finn quit work as a touring musician and is laid off from [somewhere]. Finn doesn't want a job with his controlling father-in-law and heads to North Dakota for work in the oil fields. He leaves behind is worrying wife and their four-year-old daughter.

Finn gets to the Bakken oil fields and hires on with an outfit managed by Pancrazio. Finn doesn't much like the work, the place, or the people. Handy is the only guy Finn tries to make friends with and Handy pushes Finn away. Finn wants a new start and his family reunited in ND. When Finn figures out Handy and Pancrazio are running meth Finn asks for extra "work" in exchange for some of that plentiful drug money.

Anyway. Many things happen with lonely men getting drunk and chasing the few women. Low level crooks get away with being stupid because there are too few cops. No one is really happy and bad dudes are scheming. Boom town life means everyone is a stranger and there is not enough housing, few restaurants, and driftless morons looking for work but stupid to learn the trade. Things go very bad for Finn. People are trying to live and get ahead but the weather, the work, the bosses, the loneliness, and the crooks grind people down.

Some other dude - this guy - already wrote some nice insights about the novel that I would have missed. How several characters "have two names, two lives and some even have another self they're hiding to their colleagues."I didn't actually read the rest of that review. There was something else about villains.

1. Smith mostly skips the sex scenes. Good idea because A. most scenes in novels are lame and B. All the character except Finn and his wife are looking for love and companionship and never really finding it. The sex is casual. The friendships that exist are - as pointed out by above reviewer - two faced. Even the two best pals from OK are running separate shenanigans.
2. Shenanigans.
3. Continuing Smith motifs: Northern prairie setting. Conflicts with in-laws. Small time crooks. Naive guys learning the hard way.
4. I liked The Hard Way. I saw that one in the theater.
5. Boom town living with high pay matched by higher prices and no place for the workers to spend the dough. Richard S. Wheeler's Sierra did a great job explaining how the boom town economies in California ran in 1850.
6. Spoiler. Smith kills off Finn's Wife Character. Wife Character was a nice woman and Smith gives enough time for us to start liking the lady when Wife Character disappears and is presumed dead.
7. I've got two more Smith books to read and then I will be caught up.


Ben said...

Thanks for linking up, my man! If you're not familiar with the ANS books, try the Billy Lafitte Saga. It's his best work.

Mathew Paust said...

I like the way you did this review. Cuts straight thru the crap. Didn't sell me on the book, but I know you weren't trying to. No wonder there are so many suicides up that way, as I read somewhere once. Almost got depressed just reading about Worm.