Published: 2006, M Press
My rating: 4 out of 5
Bottomfeeder by Bob Fingerman was gritty, grotesque, laugh-out-loud funny, and somehow (despite the supernatural underpinnings) believable. I originally discovered this book when looking for something to suggest to my boyfriend for reading on a plane trip, and as he's a fan of Bob Fingerman's graphic novel work, I thought this would be good for him. Then I ended up having it re-recommended to me by him. The circle of stories, or some-such...but I'm glad to have read it.
Halfway through, I expected I'd be awarding the book five stars, but the ending blindsided me. After such detailed, enjoyable character development, the last few pages of the story seemed a bit disconcertingly abrupt and thus out of balance with the rest of the narrative. It occurred to me that perhaps this was intentional, sucker punching the reader upside the head with the same sort of out-of-left-field "whahappnd?" feeling the protagonist himself must have felt - both at the end of the story and on several previous, eventful occasions in his existence. But as this is pure speculation on my part, I feel compelled to go with my gut and chop a little off the top due to the jarring effect of the final bits of the book.
Perhaps I'm being unfair. Fingerman told a great story, and while I suppose it makes me sound unsavory and not fit for polite company, I genuinely liked Phil, the protagonist. Monster that he was, he was a likable monster. Phil acted sensibly and realistically. Phil, for all his inhumanity, was extraordinarily human. Unlike so many characters in unusual circumstances, Phil acted like I thought a person should act, given those circumstances. Phil was smart, at least most of the time. Phil had a personal code and his own set of standards and practices which he tried to follow - something I value greatly in a person and which is all too rare. So yes, I liked Phil immensely and wished him well throughout the story, although his situation didn't always afford him the simple luxury of wellness.
I appreciated the different angle of this story; I like a rousing undead yarn as much as the next gal, but let's just say I'm a fan of neither the sexpot fiend slinking through many "urban fantasy" stories nor of the soulless sparkle of the powdery ever-teen moping about the fantasies of every girl and her grandmother of late, either. Fingerman has a much more realistic ride in store for ol' Phil, and while glamorous it's not, at least it didn't leave me feeling adolescent, incredulous, naive or vaguely hypocritical. Phil is a sarcastic, jaded, book-readin', cranky old man in a young fella's body, and I'm very much down with that vibe. Those ethereal, vapid, bloodsucking stereotypes can step the hell off Philip Merman's lawn and learn to like it!
Yes, this was often gory. Gross, even. But it never seemed gratuitous to me. I'm sorry, but you just can't go around making omelets all day and not get your velvet cape eggy, you know? The violence made perfect sense. But I suppose I should shy the sensitive-tummy types away, so here's my good deed of the day: If visceral descriptions of death and dying, in all their sticky variety, bother you, look elsewhere for your reading enjoyment. "Death by misadventure", indeed...
And I laughed. A lot. With unabashed gusto. Fingerman pokes fun at everything - the living, the dead, the undead, society, fashion, fad, perhaps even himself - with the gnarly finger of a practiced curmudgeon, and it's refreshing. If you have a mature attitude, a warped sense of humor, and something of a jaded opinion of humanity in general, this is for you.