Friday, October 28, 2011

REVIEW: The One Percenters by John Podgursky

I’ll come right out and say it - The One Percenters is a very strange, very awkward read, the kind of story that’s hard to peg as belonging to any one genre. This is a story that’s written in a casual, conversational tone, but filtered through one very disturbed mind. You come into it expecting one kind of read, but find yourself trapped in something very different.

That’s not to say it’s a bad read, just a different one.

The concept here is definitely intriguing. The story revolves around a man who loves his wife deeply (perhaps desperately), only to have her torn from his life by a serial rapist/murderer. Although it’s clear he’s not the most normal (or stable) of individuals to begin with, the tragedy drives him to the ‘revelation’ that 99% of world is just taking up space. If it stopped there, we’d just have a sad story – instead, he takes that revelation to the next il(logical) step. He decides that it’s the job of the remaining 1% (of whom he is, of course, a part) to reduce the waste, to weed out the useless, and to take those who don’t contribute out of the equation.

Yes, boys and girls, this is a story about a killer . . . narrated by a killer . . . and yet sold to us as the work of an evolutionary hero. In many ways, it’s a harsh read, one based on the idea that humans are not necessarily good. It’s the story of a wounded individual driven to see the worst in everyone. On a purely statistical level, you can’t argue with his logic but, on a purely emotional level, you have to argue (vehemently) with his conclusions.

Interesting, if not easily enjoyable, this is a story filled with physical, emotional, and intellectual violence. It starts with the abduction of an innocent young woman who the ‘hero’ ties to a tree, forcing her to listen to his tale. It’s a very strange opening, especially because we immediately understand that there’s no malice behind his actions.

As for the ending, I’ve been thinking of it for a few days, and I’m still not sure what I think. It’s either an apologetic cop-out, or a bold twist . . . either a punch in the face that invalidates the entire read, or a slap in the face that validates it. Call me perverse, but I like that ambiguity, especially since this is a story defined by the ambiguity between the reader and the protagonist.

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