Working through Books at Speed


As usual, after attending an ALA conference, I have returned with books. Not nearly as many books as from Annual, where I stuffed all of my free tote bags with interesting looking galleys and free science fiction books, but I still gathered enough to weigh down my duffel.

The first book (after devouring the newest Terry Pratchett, a post for another day) I decided to tackle was Chop Chop, by Simon Wroe. It looked interesting, it had great cover art, and the summary was excellent. So I grabbed it, threw it in my bag, and now I have finished it.

Chop Chop, Simon Wroe. B-/C+

Monocle, as he is referred to throughout the book, lives a 20-something’s dream life in London. He has an English Literature degree, he’s broke, and he lives in an “interesting” neighborhood, code for dangerous, or at least dirty. He knows that he can’t go home and face his parents, having failed to amount to anything in London, and so, driven by poverty and his landlady’s shouts through the door, he finds The Swan. The Swan is a restaurant, not too fancy–it’s on the wrong street to be very posh–but fancy enough to have multiple chefs, including Racist Dave, Bob, and the beautiful Harmony. The problem, Monocle discovers, is that kitchens are not a fun place to work. He slices his finger open on his first day, and must finish his upteen hour shift with a glove full of blood. His existence is terrible, running from station to station attempting to prepare enough food to last the dinner shift, but he can’t tear himself away, not from the kitchen where torture and insults are as commonplace as dirty dishes, not from the guilt over his brother’s death, and not from his good-for-nothing father who turns up on his doorstep at the worst moment possible. Chop, Chop reads more like three books whirled into one, the first dealing with adapting to kitchens, the second dealing with working up the ladder in a kitchen, and the last with The Fat Man, the ultimate villain. Although compelling enough to pull the reader through, the disconnected narratives, authorial asides, and frustratingly unclear evil of The Fat Man make this book more of a slog than it might otherwise be. A better example of the lost 20-something narrative can be found in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, or the collection of tales in Alice in Tumblr-Land, by Tim Manley.

Next on my list is Worst Person Ever, by Douglas Coupland.