Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 9, 2001
Endless Honeymoonby Don Webb
St. Martin's/Minotaur, 243pp., $23.95
Halloween, comic books, chaos theory, frighteningly complex software programs, the FBI, hackers, mental aberrations, incest, and the urge to stay the hands of evil by giving it a metaphorical bat upside the head: That's what Don Webb's new novel is made of. And it all takes place in Texas (except for the last bit, of course). Austinite Don Webb has long been a fixture on the literary fringes of both the River City and beyond. His "Letters to the Fringe" column on the Cyber-Psychos AOD Web pages (cyberpsychos.netonecom.net), which have been going, as far as I know, for years now, play like an intellectualized cyberpunk's Notes From the Underground, and his two previous novels -- 1998's The Double and 1999's Essential Saltes -- were cunning, often hilarious works of outsider fiction. They may have been full of foul deeds and bizarre machinations beyond the pale, but you couldn't keep the grin off your face while reading them.
That goes double for Endless Honeymoon, a clever, eminently readable meditation on everything from true love and the sacrificial nature of co-dependent relationships to why some people are just plain better off dead, all of which arrives cloaked in the guise of a crime novel cum road trip. It's as if both Lewis Shiner and Joe R. Lansdale beat the stuffing out of Dave Barry and stole his crackpipe for a weekend bender spent curled up in the bottom of the Well. The novel's protagonists, lovers Willis and Virginia, are a hopelessly devoted-to-you couple of tech-savvy Austinites who spend their free time (of which there is much) "pranking" society's emotionally crippled ne'er-do-wells, the folks who make the day-to-day drudgery of life just that much harder for the rest of us, and thereby hope to sway them from their malefic course. They're not killers, these two, but reformers, although the ways and means they employ to track and subvert these "psychic vampires" often tend to fall outside the law. It's while working on one of these motivational pranks in a small Texas town that they run afoul of someone else who appears to have the same modus operandi, only with far more homicidal results: the dreaded "ShitKiller," a mysterious figure who may or may not be responsible for more than 300 murders. After their paths initially entangle, Willis and Virginia become enmeshed in a cat-and-mouse skein of overlapping plot twists worthy of Tom Clancy (if Clancy were given to hanging with the late William S. Burroughs). Soon enough, FBI Special Agent Mondragon, former (now mad) FBI Special Agent Salazar, and Virginia's psychotic ex-husband Anthony are all tossed into the mix, with everyone searching not only for the dreaded SK, but also for the source of the special software that allows Willis and Virginia (and presumably the SK) to seek out and destroy those nasty societal parasites mentioned earlier.
If all this sounds complicated, it is, but Webb's pacing has such a rocketing forward momentum that the complex relationships and layers of aliases (very few people are who they at first appear to be) just add to the bizarre fun. It's the kind of brainy, crackerjack read perfect for a lazy Austin afternoon. You bring the Shiner, Webb'll provide the conspiracy theories.
Don Webb will be at Adventures in Crime and Space (609-A W. Sixth) from 2-4pm on Saturday, Feb. 10.