It has been a little while since my last review. With the world around us crazier than ever, reading has become much more difficult for me than usual. The only book I have managed to finish in the last two weeks was too boring to consider reviewing (a review in and of itself). Then, however, I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to review Tomas Marcantonio’s debut novel: This Ragged, Wastrel Thing. It has gone a long way in helping me to recapture my love of reading.
What’s it about?
This Ragged, Wastrel Thing tells the story of Daganae Kawasaki. He has just finished serving eleven years in ‘The Heights’ (a futuristic prison) for murdering his girlfriend and is free to explore Sonaya once more. Sonaya is the fictional city the story is set in, an island which gained independence from Japan and is populated by mongrels and misfits. Once Daganae is released, it is clear that some people aren’t happy about his new found freedom and it isn’t long before he is framed for the murder of a woman who had offered to help him find answers on his release. This Ragged, Wastrel Thing follows Daganae’s journey to the truth. The people he interacts with, the connections he reforms and the city he loves all driving him forwards.
What did I think?
The first thing I need to talk about in this review is the extraordinary work Tomas Marcantonio has done in creating the world for the story to exist in. Creating a fully realised, believable place is easier said than done but in Sonaya, he has managed to contain an iconic setting for his story, one which I would be happy to dive back into for the next two books of this trilogy. The tone of the book is created wonderfully through this setting, the characters, and their actions. They all feed back to the mood of the writing which encapsulates what Marcantonio is trying to do delightfully. Fluorescent signs reflecting in puddles at night, the dingy bars, cramped filthy living conditions, the sterile corporate environments. They are all fully realised and really added to my enjoyment of the story. It isn’t just the setting though. There are tonnes of interesting ways in which Sonaya is distinguished from any real place. The men are all rated on looks with higher ratings meaning more tax for both you and anybody who employs you. Leading to a strange situation where men will often seek to appear less attractive to better their chances of finding work. A population crisis means that people are paid to have babies, creating huge slums filled with abandoned or neglected children. There is no meat, no cigarettes, no phones, and no internet in Sonaya. Not many futuristic noir novels could be described as retro but somehow This Ragged, Wastrel Thing has pulled it off. It gives the book a really unique feeling.
“A twenty minute free pass. Run wild. Live fast. Happy birthday, Dag, don’t waste it.
Another aspect I enjoyed of the book was the shifting timeline. It goes back and forth between Daganae out of The Heights and his time behind bars, waiting for release. It offers great context to what is currently happening in the story as well as allowing the reader a breather from the often very intense situations unfolding in the main plot. It is a subtle, but enjoyable way of giving the reader more information about Sonaya and Daganae without it ever feeling like exposition just for the sake of exposition. Often books set in fictional locations can spend far too many words trying to describe the place to us, trying to make it believable. This leads to huge chunks of writing which do nothing to progress the plot and can often leave me bored. This book, however, very cleverly weaves all the information the reader needs throughout these passages. It is a very skilful way of doing it and I came away from the book with a very clear image in my mind of what I believe Sonaya to look like.
“I want to say something but I can’t get the words straight in my head. Something about my father, something about regrets.”
Of course, the book isn’t perfect. I found the ending to be slightly rushed. Having spent the best part of 230 pages learning these characters, living in the world, feeling their pain, for it then to be all over in another 30 pages didn’t quite sit right. I understand why it is done; the plot quickens in a reflection of the excitement of the events happening but it just felt a little bit too fast for me. There was a lot more to unpick in what was going on and often I hadn’t finished digesting one twist before the next was thrown in front of you. The twists were another element of the book which I feel could have been improved upon. I obviously won’t reveal the twists involved, but there is numerous littering the final pages. I don’t mind a twist, if executed correctly it gives the reader a nice little thrill and leaves you baffled. However, by the time you have reached the fourth twist it feels a little bit like it is been done just to get a reaction from the reader. Some of them felt much better thought out than others as well with one not making much sense to me. All of that is not to say I didn’t enjoy the climax of this story, I really did, it just could have probably been a little bit slicker.
“His eyes shiver in their sockets – he doesn’t know whether to tell me the truth or not. It’s all the answer I need.”
By far the strongest quality of this book is the escapism. It allowed me to be completely absorbed in the world, had me turning pages frantically and left me desperately wanting more. Daganae is an enthralling character and like all in this book, is beautifully written and thought out. As I mentioned at the start of this review, I have found reading difficult lately, but this book reminded me why I loved it so much. This Ragged, Wastrel Thing is a brilliant debut, wonderfully executed by Tomas Marcantonio. The odds are it wasn’t on your radar previously, but it needs to be. The good news is as well it is part of a trilogy so we will be able to dive back into this world at some point in the future! Thanks for reading!
I would like to thank Tomek Dzido of Storgy Books for my review copy of This Ragged, Wastrel Thing. It is scheduled for release in August of this year. The views expressed in the review are entirely my own.