March 8, 2012

Off the Shelf: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat

Title: Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat
Author: Andrez Bergen
Artist: Scott Campbell
Publisher: Another Sky Press

When it’s done right, cyberpunk is easily one of my favorite genres. It can be sleek, sexy, and downright cool. Neuromancer (William Gibson) is one of my favorite novels. And if we want to talk about comic books, then Spider-Man 2099 (the original run) is one of my favorite Marvel runs.

However, when it’s not done right, cyberpunk ranges from laughably bad to horrendously awful. If you don’t believe me, just pick up one of those corny cyber story arcs Marvel and DC put out in the 90s.

So when I received Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, I wasn’t sure how a cyberpunk novel with such a bizarre title would turn out. Early in the novel, though, I did figure out one thing. This would be different from any cyberpunk novel I’ve read.

For starters, this isn’t in your usual cyberpunk setting such as Japan, Los Angeles, or even Britain. Rather, it takes place in Melbourne, Australia. And not just any kind of cyberpunk future, but an apocalyptic future as well. Making it not just a cyberpunk novel, but a cyberpunk, Mad Max, and Philip K. Dick kind of novel.

But the differences go far beyond the setting and aesthetics. The main thing here, is that TSMG doesn’t take itself seriously. Quite the opposite. Floyd Maquina has a more humorous (whether knowingly or unknowingly) approach to his narration. Even his actions are humorous. He’s very skilled and yet incompetent much of the time.

Along with the humor, there are lots of allusions. Lots of allusion, which can be a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s nice to have familiarities and to be able to shout “A-ha! I know what you’re alluding to.” Not to mention that Bergen isn’t afraid to give nods to different influences of his. On the other hand, though, the allusions can be a bit too much. Yes, we get it, Floyd thinks of himself as a Humphrey Bogart. And don’t worry, if you didn’t know he likes Humphrey Bogart and the classic noir films, you will by the end of TSMG. Because it uses those references over and over again.

In fact, much of the novel is a double edged sword. It’s one of those books where the strengths are equally its weaknesses. Although the narration’s humor and tongue in cheek approach can be a welcome, it can also be an annoyance from time to time.

With that being said, on a whole, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is a fun and refreshing read. It’s a novel that’s both an homage and one of a kind, that mixes cyberpunk, Philip K. Dick elements, action, and humor. All in an offbeat way.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can do so here:

Andrew Hudson

A copy of this book was provided by Andrez Bergen for review.



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