Official John Dermot Woods Web Site

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A Review of Woods’s The Complete Collection of people, places & things
By Jason Jordan, Oct 19, 2009

John Dermot Woods, editor of Action, Yes and organizer of Apostrophe Cast, debuts with a 180-page novel entitled The Complete Collection of people, places & things (BlazeVOX [books], 2009). The book begins with the collector, a transcriber of history, whose pièce de résistance, according to the mysterious first person narrator, “I can only report...with my own imperfect recall” (5). Thus, from the outset, the issue of reliability is brought into question. However, suspending disbelief is surprisingly easy, in the beginning and throughout.

The Complete Collection... reads like a fairytale with a cast from the 1980s. For example, pop culture references abound, serving primarily as character names—Optimus Prime, Alf, Hacksaw Jim, Stormshadow, Punky Brewster, etc. The novel’s divided into sections, and each section utilizes an adept, black and white sketch as its preface. Fittingly, every section could stand alone, but, when combined, they do indeed form a coherent narrative. The gist is that The Bear, a manipulator, controls Optimus Prime, the mayor of the town, and the remaining portion is spent detailing the town’s inhabitants and how they feel about this arrangement, in addition to the everyday matters they’re already concerned with.

Woods’s prose is precise insofar as he rarely includes unnecessary words: “Luckily, Hacksaw Jim could light a flame under the whole damn town. But, for a price. Pay him two bits and he’d strike flint. Results weren’t his worry; starting things was” (39). What dialogue there is is believable. My two complaints are ones I have with many novels. First, I’m not overly fond of the characters when I think it’s important to be attached to at least one. And second, I don’t find the plot compelling enough, which lessens the dramatic tension and my sense of investment. I want the plot to essentially force me to sate my curiosity. Still, for the open-minded, The Complete Collection of people, places & things is an entertaining book—one whose offbeat nature definitely works in its favor.

decomP Editor-in-Chief Jason Jordan has a large red beard. Visit him (and his beard) at his blog.