Book review: This Ragged, Wastrel Thing by Tomas Marcantonio

Within the first pages of Tomas Marcantonio's searing new book, we are utterly caught up in the crazed action of a world alight with neon fire.
This Ragged, Wastrel Thing is published by independent printing press, STORGY.

Within the first pages of Tomas Marcantonio’s searing new book, we are utterly caught up in the crazed action of a world alight with neon fire.

This Ragged Wastrel Thing (have you heard many better book titles recently?) transports us to the frenetic, fractured world of The Rivers – a twisting network of alleyways that our protagonist, Daganae Kawasaki, must somehow navigate. It is a fiercely appropriate setting, mirroring the entangled nature of a narrative that twists and turns as we uncover a world of secrets, lies, death and sex.

But this isn’t a book that plays out like your standard piece of dystopian fiction. Nor is it simply a crime thriller with a dystopian backdrop. Rather, This Ragged Wastrel Thing is entirely unique – it is it’s own thing, if you will.

Of course, it shares traits with all great books: the pacing is perfectly poised and tight – you barrel along with Kawaski and co as fast as some of the punk-riddled bikers we encounter in its pages. The writing is sharp and the characters are never cardboard cut-outs (so often an unfortunate feature of thrillers, where authors reach for ways to advance plot points at the expense of their characters). Indeed, reading Marcantonio’s book, one is struck by how cinematic it feels at times. Not simply through it’s descriptions, but also through some of the scenes the author evokes: from extravagant parties thrown by and for the richest in society; through to tight fight scenes and action sequences.

There are elements of Watchmen in this novel – particularly Rorschach’s diary – but also of Philip. K. Dick, and Ballard. While it perhaps lacks some of the subtlety or probing, interrogative philosophical questions that Dick and Ballard pose us, This Ragged Wastrel Thing is never anything other than compelling, and exciting.

The excitement comes not only from the action, but from the very nature of the prose itself. Filled with stunning imagery that blends beauty with horror, and sanity with absurdity, the language gives life to a world that feels so intensely realised it is as though we are walking the streets alongside Dag, Fairchild and co. Added to this, Marcantonio’s decision to use the present tense gives a sense of urgency and pace that begs the reader to keep reading, continue turning the pages, desperate to uncover the next part of the story.

There’s intrigue galore and this is a book that keeps you asking questions until the very end (setting us up nicely for the sequel). But while neither we, nor our protagonists, can be sure where we’ll end up, there’s one thing that we can be certain of: when the future comes, it will be drenched in neon.

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