Thursday, February 13, 2020

Swamp Run: Gone South by Robert R. McCammon

I picked this up because I recently met the author at Chattacon. I was even on a panel with him! He was super cool, and it was an honor. This was my first book by Robert McCammon, but I'll definitely be reading more of him in the future.

Gone South is weirder than it might sound, and it's probably more fun it has any right to be. Dan is a down-on-his-luck Vietnam vet who accidentally kills a man and goes on the run. He's followed by a bounty hunter who has an unspeaking, half formed conjoined twin on his side (think Kuato in Total Recall, but with a gun). The bounty hunter's partner is--wait for it--an Elvis impersonator with a pet bull dog named Mama. And after a large number of seemingly random adventures, Dan meets up with Arden, a young woman in search of a healer to take care of a large birthmark on her face. And it all just gets wilder from there as they all make their way to the Louisiana bayou.

What I've described barely scratches the surface of this plot-oriented novel. A LOT happens in less than 400 pages, most of it taking place in just a few days. This makes it fun, because you never know what's going to happen next. And a lot of it's pretty funny, especially whenever the Elvis impersonator, er, interpreter, is around. The characters are mostly pretty sympathetic, even the bounty hunters.

It's not a perfect book. I find the trope of the beautiful woman who has a birthmark so people think she's ugly a bit tiresome. I do like Arden as a character, although it's odd she's so trusting of a random man she meets on the road even after she finds out he killed somebody (this is partly explained later). The plot moves at a brisk pace, but maybe sometimes a little too fast and at other times almost too slow.

With all this stuff going on you might not think there's much philosophical depth here, but if you think about it the characters' journeys on the run meeting seemingly random challenges and having uncertain goals and anxieties about life and death... is it maybe all a metaphor for the meaning of life?

I know it sounds like a stretch, but bear with me for a second. Maybe if we're lucky, once in a while (or once in a lifetime) all the seeming chaos and suffering of life might come together into something beautiful and meaningful. And maybe an Elvis impersonator will be there to help.

See also my Goodreads review.

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