If there’s chicklit, Divine Roosters and Angry Clowns by Frank Crimi should be put in the category of Dude Lit. This is especially true because the novel is reminiscent of “The Big Lebowski” and the Coen brothers at their most zany. Tarantino is in there as well. Talking about filmmakers is an appropriate starting point because this novel is distinctly cinematic. Not because it reads like a screenplay but because there’s a very entertaining movie in this book crying to get out.
Divine Roosters is an apocalyptic novel, but in a way it’s an old fashioned one. It harkens back to an earlier time when people had a bit of a sense of humor about something so absurd as the apocalypse. Sure the end of the world is a terrifying prospect, because who wants to get their face eaten by zombies, but still there really is something absurd about the world coming to an end. Crimi takes this idea and runs with it.
The apocalypse in this book comes via a solar storm. A group of people are trapped in a diner together as everything seems to be coming to an end: All electricity has gone out. It’s a familiar story: “Legion” takes place in a diner. Stephen King’s “The Mist” takes place in a supermarket. As is common with apocalypse fiction, the story is about how people deal with each other, as well as the impending disaster.
Only in Divine Roosters we have a divine collection of misfits: a dwarf who escapes an explosive sex doll, a dog with a sexual fetish, a Trekkie who’s addicted to selling paraphernalia, a failed minor league baseball player, and others. One by one, we get the backstory of each person, and each story is crazier than the last. At times, the zaniness strains credulity; it’s an insanity a step too far. But most of the time the world of each character is so fully realized that you only wish people’s lives were this entertaining.
It’s a real addictive page turner. Just when you think the book can’t top itself, it does. This is a laugh out loud book: an overused phrase, but really this is a vivid and hilarious ride. For instance, the “Trekkie” is actually a fanatic about a show called “Robotic Quest”: We are exposed to a succession of plot arcs and character descriptions that are at once recognizable as Trek-like, but with a colorful weirdness all its own.
The cover, unfortunately, doesn’t give the impression of what’s inside the book. It seems almost as if it could be a children’s book, even with the title “Angry Clowns.” The novel is absurd and comic, but it’s not lightweight. There still is an apocalyptic ominousness: Everyone’s a weirdo in a world that’s getting increasingly weird. It doesn’t necessarily fall into the category of satire, because the book is not overtly political. The main message it’s sending is that our world is pretty clearly mad. The very least we can do is laugh at it.
In a world of somber zombie fiction, Biblical apocalypses, or environmental disasters, perhaps people want to have their literary catharsis to be a bit more serious. Hopefully this book can find readers as well. Because though the apocalypse is serious business, it would be truly apocalyptic if everyone lost their sense of humor. Recommended.