Date started: February 19th
Date finished: February 22nd
So yeah, I’m a little overdue on this review. Totally my fault, I meant to do it on Saturday, but I ended up playing something like eight straight hours of Dead Space 3, because it’s been over a year since I had a crazy video game marathon like that, so. Anyway…
Speaking of video games, The Returners is the debut novel by Mikey Neumann of Gearbox Studios fame. (Boom! Nailed that segue!) The plot concerns the titular returners, famous figures throughout history who have reincarnated in modern day America, for a purpose none of them have yet discerned. It opens with Alexander the Great being attacked in a Taco Baron by Genghis Khan, and being saved by his girlfriend, Joan of Arc. And it only gets crazier from there! Einstein is a teenage genius, and I’m going to shut up about this part, because I’ll spoil who all the others are too and half of the fun is just seeing who shows up in total.
Still not sold? I’m going to go ahead and guess you’ve never read a book where a thirteen year old Albert Einstein pistol whips a clone. Yeah, didn’t think so.
Seriously, I sound like a raving lunatic because this book is just so much fun! I constantly found myself laughing, genuinely laughing at loud, at how crazy this book went. Whether it was Alex and his ex-girlfriend’s flirty banter, [REDACTED] dropping an Aliens reference, or Albert and his young friend [REDACTED] teaming up for a game of Batman and… Beowulf. This book was just packed to the brim with fun and ridiculous.
The best part though, is that it all comes together in a plot that justifies the whole thing. It’s paced like a television show (which is kind of given away in the title) with each chapter acting like a mini episode, with its own ebb and flow of cliffhangers and revelations. It makes sense, given that the whole thing was released for free, a chapter at a time. That said, I’m glad I waited and read the whole ‘season’ on Kindle. It’s a very fast paced book and I found myself blasting through several chapters in a single sitting, whether I was in bed at night or on break in work. Being only the first season, there are a lot more questions raised than answered, and I am very excited for season two. The question is whether I’ll be able to hold off until the whole thing is released, or if I’ll cave and read chapter by chapter. Either way, I can hardly wait.
There was one slight downside, and it’s not a big one, but it is there and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. I’m pretty sure the book was self edited, and it shows in places. There are a few places where apostrophes creep in where they are unneeded and therefore unwelcome. Back, evil apostrophes! Honestly though, I was having so much fun reading that I blitzed straight on pass with nary a backwards glance, so definitely not a deal breaker.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a book that’s a damn good time, you won’t go far wrong with The Returners. It’s really hard to argue with free too, and given that it’s online at Neumann’s site, you owe it to yourself to at least check out a chapter or two and see what’s what. The Returners is an impressive debut with a high concept and a punk rock attitude, and Mikey Neumann is a talent to keep an eye on.