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Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick

av David Wong

Serier: Zoey Ashe (2)

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1105199,613 (3.83)1
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Visar 5 av 5
There's exactly one reason why I read David Wong's books, and it's for little gems like this:

> "On the way home I waved to you on the sidewalk, but it turned out it wasn’t you, it was a dumpster full of butts." (Chapter 20, page 187)

There isn't much more than that. He's a funny guy, this David (not his real name), and each of his books tickle my funny bone. But this isn't great literature, even if the title referencing a dick punch wasn't enough of a clue about that. He uses more Deus ex Machinas than a Greek theater group doing a run of classic tragedies. His characters are stock to the point of being cardboard cutouts. His style is pretty much this: build some tension, resolve it with an unexpected twist that wasn't set up at all, end the chapter with a zinger. Rinse and repeat until the various plot elements you dropped in sort of wrap themselves up, eventually.

So yeah, I liked this book. I had fun reading it. I'll keep reading his books. But there's only a small group of people I might actually recommend them to: likeminded people who can (from time to time) enjoy a simple funny story and park their brains outside the door before entering. The rest of you need not apply. ( )
  invisiblelizard | Sep 22, 2021 |
I enjoy David Wong’s books quite a lot. The John Dies at the End series, in particular, was a great read, though it kept giving diminishing returns as the series went on. The Zoey series is going through the same motions. The first book was a fun, light read with some fascinating observations about society, poverty, and criminality. This one—the second—continues that trend, albeit slightly less than its predecessor.

The story doesn’t seem to go anywhere in particular this time. The characters do go through some development, but it feels minor and rushed. It reflects very poorly on Zoey’s entourage, almost all of whom are cardboard cutouts with little personality behind them. Wong attempts some characterization, though they don’t add much to what’s already there in the grand scheme of things. Zoey goes through some post-PTSD motions, and her empathy is highlighted significantly. Even then, it feels somewhat vague and light compared to what could’ve been done. The villains go through similar motions, too, being cartoonishly evil.

The future portrayed here is both utopic and dystopic, with the satire of today’s hyper-connected social media-obsessed world a bit too on the nose. However, the tech is futuristic and fun, the stealth helicopter being the standout. The violence is exciting and gratuitous (no complaint there!), and some of the set pieces are *chef’s kiss*. It feels very visual, almost as if the author wrote this as a movie or a television show. Is there something he hasn’t told us yet?

Overall, it was a fun, light read as it aimed to be. Just don’t expect deep characters—they’re all doing what they must do, no more. If you liked Wong’s other works and the previous book in the series, you’d like this. If you like decent near-future sci-fi, you’ll like this. Don’t expect any insightful commentary, though. ( )
  bdgamer | Sep 10, 2021 |
Zoey Ashe, heiress to her estranged father’s criminal empire, is also extremely hated online because alienated young men. And one of the city’s warlords is apparently inciting that hatred, which becomes very personal, involving her mom and her cat. Wong is good at ridiculous extremes and making fun of his characters’, and by extension our, complicity in systems that are too big to change individually. ( )
  rivkat | Mar 22, 2021 |
It’s nice to read something that’s just a cleanly written, fun story that’s not trying to be a five hundred page epic or engineered toward a movie option.

I think this one’s better than the first (“Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits”) because I found it hard to wrap my head around the world-building and who they characters were (they all play the same role). Maybe now I know what this world is and what platform we’re standing on. The first one had a high-ish learning curve. This one doesn’t.

The basics? We’ve still got Zoey Ashe, a no-name millennial who inherited a city (essentially) after her mob boss father died and left everything to her. That includes all his businesses (legit and illegit), employees, mansion, and personal entourage of elite black ops bodyguards.

And the enemy? This time it’s something a little harder to fight–a throng of anti-woman incel supremacists. That makes the threat sound trivial, but not in a world where they sell cybernetic implants and homing beacons at Walmart. It’s a timely theme–how long and how much are you going to let these cyberbullies control your life. How much power do they really have? How do you fight an enemy that’s essentially a swarm of wasps?

Wong calls this bizarro fiction, but I don’t think so. It’s wacky, with some surreal science-fiction elements. But nothing bizarre. Bizarro is a convention full of William Shatners attacking a cult of Bruce Campbell worshipers. Bizarro is a Santa made entirely of sausages and elves having sex through extra-dimensional panties. Bizarro is your zombie girlfriend taking off her breasts so you can use them as suction cups to scale a wall.

Women may not find this as amusing since seeing Zoey harassed and trolled and threatened when that’s their every day life. But for men, it’s an important step toward understanding what it’s like to be on the receiving end of online misogyny day after day. I highlighted one passage in particular.

“I want, for the first time in my life, to enter an elevator with a man and not stand there with the knowledge that he can overpower me anytime he feels like it. I want to be able to go jogging alone, at night. And when I enter a room, I want the people there to take me seriously, because they know they have to.” ( )
  theWallflower | Jan 21, 2021 |
A tame addition to David Wong's creditable body of work. His brand of dick-joke comedy backed with zany thrills has always been more intelligent than such a description would suggest, but Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick is very much a lesser light in his peculiar constellation.

It seems, frankly, that the Zoey and the Suits series, of which this book is the second instalment, is a premise and a group of characters with less potential than Wong's John Dies at the End series. Where that other series is a riotous horror-comedy that's just looking to have a fun adventure and, occasionally, blow your mind from out of left-field, it's hard to say what the Zoey series has been trying to do, even in the first book. Needlessly gaudy and with ill-defined characters that, even after two books, I'm still not sure I should be rooting for (or, if so, why), the Zoey books just seem to be treading water. Whereas the first book, Futuristic Violence & Fancy Suits, deserved the benefit of the doubt in setting up its stall, the second book's anticlimactic plot, low-energy characterization and clunky social conscience don't seem designed to build towards anything other than hitting a contractual word-count. Wong's continued ability to write well in his odd, idiosyncratic style is not necessarily enough to maintain interest in the book.

One problem in the first book was that the Suits are bad people – ruthless, moneyed, corporate gangsters – who change in the blink of an eye to down-to-earth, wise-cracking anti-heroes. Zoey is the young woman who inherits the wealth of her father, an organised crime boss, to put the Suits under her control. In the second book Wong, through Zoey, tries to resolve the knot of bad-people-come-good in much the same way guilty rich people in real life do so: by throwing money into various 'initiatives' and repeating talking points about identity politics. Consequently, the enemy in this book is not real-world crime or illicit corporate wealth, but internet 'trolls' and a "radical men's group" (pg. 344) who say mean things. Think about that: the heroine of the book is an average young woman who inherits a fortune with zero effort, whereas the villains are disenfranchised males who "generate… noise and ugliness" (pg. 338). The solution, of course, is that such men should distract themselves with video games until they are thirty and then, when they are over themselves, "get a wife and a real place to live" (pg. 372). Because it's so, like, easy for men in this patriarchy, amirite? They don't have to struggle with cellulite and social anxiety and being called a 'cow', like this heiress does.

The problem in the book is not even with this message, which is half-hearted and is lost anyway in the gaudy action and wisecracking lines which form the bulk of the story. It's that it's done cynically. Wong is a male writer in his forties writing the wish-fulfilment of a teenage girl. Zoey's life, once she is plopped into riches, is this: cake, cats, costumes, bubble baths and social consciousness. The book is not only anticlimactic in its plot – there are a number of fake-outs and red herrings – but in its ultimate resolution: it turns out (rather clunkily) that everyone loves Zoey after all. "Echo… brought her a cupcake, which was incredibly demeaning and also worked" (pg. 163). With its female wish-fulfilment, and constant cat references like some sort of search-engine-optimization for YA, the book is incredibly demeaning and also works.

That said, the book is never as bad as my criticism might suggest. As I said, the half-hearted message is lost in the gaudiness and easily dismissed. Wong remains a good writer, after his fashion – the book flows well and it has a few good lines and observations (I liked the 'mountain man' quip on page 251, and the comparison of certain financial investment practices to "a free money hack in a video game" (pg. 91)). Problems with characterization and meaning come from the limitations of the premise: at this point, the Zoey and the Suits series might well be a sunk cost.

Even here, it could not be too bad, if Wong focused more on the positive aspects of Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick. The city of Tabula Ra$a has grown on me since the first book, and a focus on the Suits' crime capers, or on the dimensions of the technological hellscape caused by social media in the city, could give this series a purpose that it hasn't yet found. Wong's company, sense of humour and worldview are welcome, even in an average book. But whoever it is, over the last five to ten years, that is convincing purveyors of harmless escapism they should pontificate about identity politics needs to be punched in the dick. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Nov 6, 2020 |
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