Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat
By Andrez Bergen
Melbourne, Australia - a metropolis that at one time was the biggest and wealthiest city in the world, ranked as one of the top three world's most liveable cities and a mecca for the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, sport and tourism. It also happens to be the only city in the world left standing after a worldwide apocalypse wipes everything else off the planet.
Your narrator for the evening is Floyd Maquina, a likable chap with one hell of a story to share. There is a Deviant menace sweeping the city, a plague that our boy finds himself in the thick of. Cue guns, intrigue, kidnappings, conspiracy and all sorts of general mayhem that make for cracking good headlines. Does Floyd stop the bad guys? Does he get the girl? Does he make Humphrey Bogart proud? Grab some popcorn and read on.
Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat is quite something else, narrated in the first person by the protagonist, the book has a roguish, affable dialog that makes the reader feel like a close friend is imparting a true story. It also makes heavy references to some of the classic black and white film noir such as The Third Man (paraphrased at the beginning of the novel) and the Maltese Falcon (liberally littered with quotes). This manages to set the scene quite nicely and before long we are led into a post apocalyptic Melbourne, the last city in the world.
The author clearly has a highly developed grasp of the english language, defying conventional story telling methods and creating a unique voice to the narrative that almost feels non-linear. The fact that he manages to succeed here really does speak volumes, the last time I read such defiant wordplay was when I last visited China Miéville's work - although the comparison does stop there - both are vastly different in style and content. In places the author does push these boundaries a little too much, there are a few occasions when it took me a minute to realise the story had shifted from past to present or one dialogue to another but these are really few and far between.
The dialog is quick witted and very offbeat, occasionally sliding into the surreal and this helps to keeps the narrative really fresh, encouraging the reader to pay attention. This isn't one of those novels that you can just switch off half your brain while reading it asks for your undivided right from the start. In style it has a strong noir feel, very much like the hard-boiled detectives such as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe - but set in a rich post-apocalyptic near future world which has been influenced by the likes of Ridley Scott and Raymond Chandler in equal measure. There also a wonderful infusion of the authors multicultural background, blending Australia with Japan then mixing it up with classic cinematography, creating something very different.
The story itself is enough to keep you glued to your seat, if a little predictable at times, the pace is pretty even and fairly fast while the characterisation is handled masterfully, Floyd is an unforgettable antihero that I would love to meet again.
Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat is an incredible novel, completely unexpected and with such a wonderfully rich and unique style that is simply mesmerising, unmissable.
Written on 18th July 2011 by Ant .