I picked this book up on a lark, finding its title oddly compelling, it’s jacket description curious, and a paragraph-long sample that I read then and there to be at least good enough not to dampen my opinion. I liked it, but in short, it’s a mixed bag.
Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles is a tale about a semi-psychic upper-class alcoholic, Travis Anderson (married, one child) who manages to screw up his love pretty badly when his web design business falls apart, he owes $5 million in taxes, he can’t stop thinking that maybe his wife is cheating on him, and he’s haunted by images of stillborn babies and alligators in swimming pools.
Everything changes when he’s contacted by a secret government agency called Shimmer that trains and uses psychics like Travis to track down criminals and subvert subversives. When they offer to pay him the needed $5 mil., Travis is thrown into a world of strange Goths, solemn doctors, and his mentor, a stern Hindi named Ikshu. Then, naturally, all that falls apart too.
It’s a mapcap novel, starting strange, bordering on absurd, and by the end has crossed over into the realm of stupid and silly. It’s not a bad thing, really, but the change is somewhat abrupt, and the ending seems rush and harried, but perhaps it was just the largely slapstick approach to the plot by the end.
Clarke shows a lot of promise as a writer, but sometimes, especially in dialogue, he tends to underdevelop, and it seems stilted. The main character, who does a bit more stream-of-consciousness stuff than I am normally used to, is inconsistently drawn, which makes it hard (at times) to identify or empathize with him.
It’s not the best debut novel I’ve read even this year (Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green and The Time-Traveler’s Wife spring to mind), but it’s certainly not bad. In fact, I would even recommend it if you’re in the mood for a lark.