When Ed Kurtz gave birth to Sam Truman, a character I knew would instantly survive pretty much anything he threw at the poor bastard, I had no idea that he would be delivering a series featuring several different authors abusing the same person for a seemingly unlimited run. Now that I know, I’m doubly stoked about the prospect of watching this man bleed the same blood some of my other favourite PI’s bleed. Granted, if you’re a fan of the Hard Case Crime and other noirish/mystery/procedural pieces in this genre, you’ve probably not seen anything like this before. And holy sweet Jesus on a flapjack does Zuern offer up a weirdo of a concept with his entry - The Last Invasion.
Eager to put the bizarre, otherworldly events of Catch My Killer! behind him and resume working regular cases again, Sam Truman agrees to investigate a missing persons case when a pair of distraught parents seek his help to find their daughter. The city is being terrorized by a serial killer the cops can’t catch, and Sam fears the worst as his fearless instincts lead him not down the killer’s path, but to uncover a nascent alien invasion that threatens the existence of all life on earth! Sam’s shot at rescuing the girl becomes a race against time before the invasion starts, and all while the unknown killer’s body count rises all over the city. But the unlicensed P.I. is determined to return the girl to her parents and make damn sure that the aliens’ hostile intentions are THE LAST INVASION!
I don’t have any problem letting the reader know that there are killer giraffes in this novella. Why? Because there aren’t, and I’m lying. But there are aliens! LOADS of em! One even pounds people in a robotic search of root beer and any other nummy liquid sweetness it can gather. Mind you, if I was in Truman’s shoes and wanted a root-beer, I’d go around kicking ass and taking names as well. But in this case, well… a ginger ale just might have to do. I’m not going up against anything like this big bastard any time soon.
Zuern’s style of writing is succinct in some places, yet offers almost too much information in others. Case in point, the fact that Truman digs himself a good old root-beer while he’s thinking – that’s good info and connects the reader to the character. Explaining that the soda jerk has a wife and two kids, assuming it’s used to validate the character’s happy demeanor… not really useful. Hell, I know a lot of people who aren’t happy, and they have wives, husbands, kids, dogs, cats, fleshlights, those awesome automatic card shuffling machines, and all that junk. It doesn’t really matter too much to the story, and it really doesn’t validate things. But what it does do, and I have to give the author this one, is it kind of slams home just how damned happy this guy is. And seriously, I want to see this character on the big screen. He seems like one of those guys you’d either love to be around, or want to dragon-punch after five minutes of exposure to his inane gaieties.
Either way, fun will be had.
Now as for this incarnation of Truman, I found him to be a little bit more of an asshole than Kurtz’s version. He’s more likely to sock a dude for looking at him funny, seems a little more shady, a little less apt to follow the right lead, and a whole helluva lot more goofy. The one-liners in here are virtually priceless, and the whole attitude of the book has less of a black and white/sepia tone effect, and more of a Warner Brothers/Who Framed Roger Rabbit-styled color scheme. Which brings me to my next topic of discussion…
ALIENS! But not your normal “we came to poke you in the bum with these lightsaber dealies” kind of grey things. No no no. Zuern has something else in store for the reader. Let’s just say that these pretty little thangs ain’t so pretty, and they definitely won’t be hugging and squeezing and calling you “George” any time soon. Nope. They’re just gonna smell the place up before they shoot the place up. Which just basically makes for some awesome end-scene catastrophes.
Zuern is on top of his game when the action is hot, there’s no doubt about that. His wit, coupled with his deliberately shortandtothegoddamnedpoint scenes of comic book violence make this a wickedly fast read. While there are obviously some ups and downs in the delivery of this tale, it’s more than made up for with the fun the reader experiences at the end.
In fact, the only downfall for me was one key plot point that just needed to be played with a bit more. Hopefully Kurtz and company will delivery on this delightfully Dexter-esque story similarity, and show the goods with a regular cameo (and a tied up storyline as well) from this mysterious serial killer.
If this is the way the Truman Series plans to roll, this reader is in for the long haul. But now, as is my bookshelf’s greatest displeasure, I’m wanting a paperback… so we’re going to have band together and pressure Abattoir into producing something a little more physical in the near future.