Night of the Avenging Blowfish Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Year: 1994
Pages: 304

The subtitle for Night of the Avenging Blowfish is “A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat.” This should immediately tell you something about the nature of the book; not quite slapstick, but populated with enough characters straight out of Seinfeld (except not as contrived and banal) and delivered with enough one-liners to make me laugh out loud. Consider this:

My pen ran out of ink. In the chair next to me, Yamato was reaching inside his coat pockets and his shirt pocket and then his pants pockets to find a pen so he could take notes during the briefing.

“Do you have an extra pen?” Yamato said.

“Use this,” I said, handing him my pen.

Yamato tried writing something on his pad, then frowned at me and said, “This is out of ink.”

“I know. That’s why I don’t want it.”

“Do you have a pen that works?” Yamato asked.

“That one works. It just doesn’t have any ink in it,” I said.

Having just finished the book, I can say definitively that it was good or bad or weak or rushed or any adjective but “fascinating.” In a way, Welter’s writing style reminds me of my own when I was 16. Certainly, he’s much better at it than I am, but the style of narration he chose for the novel is the sort that routinely wanders off into a discussion of something completely unrelated to the plot. It’s not quite stream-of-consciousness, but at times can be just as random and stultifying.

The plot of the novel centers around Doyle Coldiron, a slacker Secret Service agent who allows the president to be fed Spam, and is completely batshit crazy for a married woman named Natelle who works in the White House. He and his Secret Service buddies play a game of baseball in the dark; Yamato falls for a militant vegetarian; Doyle ponders just what a “beguine” is. But by far, the locus of the plot is the troubled relationship between Doyle and Natelle, as well as their insecurities and sexualities. By the end of the novel, I had the feeling that Night of the Avenging Blowfish, despite its whimsical airs, was a very serious love story in a wrapper of wry humor and a plethora of light-hearted literary references. But damned if the love story doesn’t manage to be engaging, and most of all, not trite. I would have liked to see it fleshed out (ha!) even further, but at the frantic pace that the story (especially the dialog) moves along, anything more than the ≈300 pages it was.

It’s not a hard read at all, and is enjoyable despite my mixed feelings. If you want a quick break between drier reads, here’s one for your list.

§697 · July 22, 2005 · Tags: ·

3 Comments to “Night of the Avenging Blowfish”

  1. Rusty says:

    Given your apparent dislike of the number of tangents in this book, can I assume you’re not a big fan of Terry Pratchett either? Just some idle curiosity on my part.

  2. Ben says:

    I don’t dislike the tangents: in fact, I have a unrelenting urge to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I wasn’t sure whether Welter handled them well or not: I still haven’t decided yet.

    As to your question, I’ve never read any Terry Pratchett. Recommend me something he’s written, and I’ll read it for 52 in 52.

  3. Rusty says:

    It’s not easy to recommend a single Pratchett book, at least for me. For example, my favourite is Feet of Clay, but without having read a lot of earlier books on the Discworld series it won’t be quite as effective (the series isn’t one long, connected story, but some books have the same characters and some background knowledge on them and the Disc enhances things enormously). I think I’d have to say, start with The Colour of Magic. It’s the first in his Discworld series, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it enough to want to check out more.

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