The Rodeo of Doom by Miguel Lasala

This novella is a send up of modern culture written in the absurdist genre and set in the relatively near future, give or take a few centuries. The protagonist is Henry Fields, a curmudgeonly old man who hoards his supply of life extending drugs and veers off into wild harangues on the flip of a dime. The only things he cares about are his Camaro and having a good time, until an alien conspiracy robs him of his immortality and his car.

Although many of the individual scenes in the novella are amusing, it never comes together into a coherent whole. It’s difficult to sympathize with any of the characters, the use of the absurd revels in itself rather than contributing to the story, and the plot is an excuse to have certain scenes occur and only loosely holds itself together.

First, Henry Fields is little more than a caricature of the antisocial wise man that revels in pointing out society’s ills but does little to address them. His baseline assumption is that the world is going to crap and inevitably doomed, and his only stake in it is sucking as much enjoyment as he can out of the fragments before everything goes up in flames. He drinks, he screws, and runs afoul of society and alien conspiracies. Unfortunately, Henry never develops enough for the reader to care about him, and the characters surrounding him are little more than props.

Second, the novella does not use absurdity well. For the absurd to stand out a story needs to slowly progress from the mundane into the absurd, or it needs to keep one foot firmly planted in mundanity so that the absurdity truly stands out and contributes to the whole. Without this the entire thing ends up being little more than an incoherent fever dream that might or might not have a point.

The author uses vulgarity and attention to grody details to try and keep the story grounded in some measure of reality. Done right, the real aches and pains of a man in a world gone mad can be just the thing to balance out the nonsense surrounding him. Here, however, it only amounts to swearing, bodily functions, and gore. Their overuse saps them of any potency, and as such they fall flat and merit little more than a shrug.

Third, the plot unevenly leaps from one series of events to the next with little connecting them besides Henry himself. One moment he’s roaring his Camaro away from an angry mob, the next he’s in a porn shoot, the next he’s blowing off a dead man’s hand with a .45 to get a Super Bowl ring, and then he’s riding a bull in a rodeo while aliens prepare to go Independence Day on it. Henry tumbles from one bizarre event to another on his loosely connected adventure with little intention, meaning, or point.

Although this novella was periodically amusing, it lacked that touch of mundanity and coherence that makes absurdist satire stand out. One dimensional characters and an unevenly paced plot drug it down and didn’t leave much to be enjoyed. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out because I like when writers take risks with their fiction. I give it a 2/5.

If you want to take a gander, you can pick up a copy from Amazon.