Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Stunt Road

Stunt Road by Gregory Mose
(Pays d’Oc Press / 0-615-30663-2 / 978-0-615-30663-6 / July 2009 / 306 pages / Amazon $14.00 / B&N $12.60 / Smashwords $3.99 / Kindle $.99)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

Stunt Road is a novel – almost a roman-a-clef – which examines a fairly simple and straightforward experience, what I called the ‘Oh-s**t!’ event. At the top of a steep, snowy mountain, a small child casually makes a snowball and starts it rolling. He then watches in absolute horror as the snowball gets bigger and bigger as it rolls down the mountainside, gathering mass and density. When it reaches the bottom of the mountain, it swiftly derails a train, bounds across a highway, sending automobiles and trucks flying every which way, and finally smashes into the outskirts of a city below, wrecking houses and heading toward downtown, still getting bigger and even more destructive. Less imaginative people might call it a narrative of unintended consequences, most of them very, very bad, especially for the relatively innocent person who set the snowball to rolling.

In Stunt Road the snowball is started off on its journey of destruction by Peter McFadden, once a designer of computer generated imagery, now unemployed and reduced to living in his increasingly resentful girlfriend’s condo. He can’t seem to find a job in the field that he loves. His oldest and dearest friends – Diego the movie director, Emily the math teacher and former girlfriend he has never gotten over, and Susan, his oldest friend and now psychologist – are worried about him. They are also relieved, when a chance encounter at an upscale party affords him a challenge that might lead to gainful employment. Peter must create from whole cloth a system to tell fortunes, make it all up, every detail: a pinch of astrology, a touch of Scientology, a scoop of pseudo-science, a sprinkling of practical psychology and there it is: Horokinetics. Before Peter’s disbelieving eyes, the snowball is halfway down the mountain, having become Hollywood’s next big spiritual fad. His innocent and seemingly harmless invention is taken up all too efficiently by a manipulative guru who becomes the public face of his fortune-telling, fortune-generating machine, a corporate mogul whose connections and motivations Peter can only guess at. And there is not a damned thing that he can do to redeem himself, except to watch the destruction, and wonder if he could have done anything else.

Although a large part of the interest in Stunt Road is the path of the snowball downhill – that is, the marketing of Horokinetics, and how a little invention can be induced to become a major fad – for me, the physical setting of Stunt Road was a major charm. I grew up in Southern California, and was quite familiar with many of the locales: Topanga Canyon, the suburban San Fernando Valley – both the well-to-do, and the not-so-well-to-do parts, and those stretches of chaparral and dirt roads which reach back into the hills – where you can indeed go horseback riding among the live oaks and mountain laurel, and think that you are the only person around for miles.

The author is a more than competent storyteller; the plot unfolds in a straight line, more or less. My only criticism would be that the various characters are not as individual in their speech and actions: I needed to refresh my memory now and again of which character was which, and what was their relationship to Peter. If anything, though, reading this account should disabuse anyone from putting any credence in any popularly reported spiritual fad.

See also: The Author's Website
Celia's BNN Review

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