Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Electronic Novel: "The Cyclist" by Anthony Neil Smith

Electronic Novel: The Cyclist by Anthony Neil Smith, 2018, I bought a Kindle version.

Smith's work has been progressively better over each new novel. I classify his work as being solidly reliable for good reading. This does take a turn from his usual madness and tones everything down a bit. At least I think so.

Failed Navy SEAL candidate Judd works for a bank in Minneapolis-St. Paul and spends almost all his spare time on his road bike. Judd rides until exhaustion every night and puts in 100-mile-days on the weekends. Judd isn't running from his troubles. Judd is riding from his troubles.

Those troubles are his deep feeling of failure after washing out of SEAL training when he accidentally shot an instructor during an exercise. The deep disappointment of his father over Judd's failure. Judd's crappy trading job with the bank. Judd's rising debt from purchases of bikes, bike parts, bike gear, bike this, bike that. Judd's seeming dissatisfaction with everything except cycling.

On top of this is the drunken presence of the sailor that Judd shot during SEAL training, WhatsHisName. (Let's call WhatsHisName Burt.) Burt was a extra super duper SEAL. A snake eater. A man among men. A veteran of fights across the globe and a booze guzzling monster. Burt cannot believe that Judd, a soon-to-washout candidate, put Burt on the ground and forced Burt into medical retirement. Burt has plenty of his own issues because he moves to the Twin Cities to drink too much, live in a shithole apartment, and harass and harangue Judd most every day.

Judd's one other joy besides long cycle rides and trips past Paisley Park are his daily video conferences with Catriona, "Cat", in Scotland. Judd and Cat's work conversations about market prices in Scotland have turned personal. There is flirting. There is talk of cycling. Cat starts hinting Judd should visit sometime. Cat flat out says Judd should visit. So, Judd empties his bank account, buys a shipping container for his road bike, a one-way ticket to Scotland, and says goodbye to his barren apartment.

Since this is a Smith book you know that the budding romance between Judd and Cat won't be working out. Read ahead for spoilers. We find out beforehand that Cat's real boyfriend is a psycho killer who just got out of the mental hospital. Psycho Killer and Cat murdered Cat's parents about 10 years ago and plan to kill, kill, kill some more.  Cat saw Judd online and recognized his strong resemblance to Psycho Killer. They plan to take Judd to the remote highlands, kill him, take his passport, fly to America, and kill, kill, kill.

More things happen. Judd gets to the UK and realizes something is amiss. Cat is all hot for Judd but then won't sleep with him. She said she was a cycling master but she gets winded after a couple miles. She lives in her parent's house that is unchanged from the murders (I suppose the blood was cleared up). They visit all the cool, rural places Cat suggests but the people give her the fish eye.

Violence ensues. Drama ensues. Judd fights to survive. Judd cannot cope and keeps on cycling.

Short-ish length. There are several aspects of the characters that Smith touches on but does not flesh out. He keeps things moving instead and the reader has to pay attention and maybe think a little.

1. Alternate title: Bike Nerd Goes Scotland.
2. Alternate Title: Smith Writes More Torture Scenes.
3. Gratuitous IPA beer insults.
4. Gratuitous Belle & Sebastian insults.
5. Gratuitous 'most beautiful scenery ever' comments.
EDIT 6: I thought I was up to date on all Smith novels but just saw I have not yet read To the Devil, My Regards that Smith wrote with Gischler and Sin-Crazed Psycho Killer! Dive, Dive, Dive. I think To the Devil was a grad school or post grad school lark with Gischler. I think Sin-Crazed was a pulpy pulp novel for an Italian publisher; I'm not sure, ask Smith.

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