Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Keep Wanting To Call It "The Axe"

I just finished reading Donald Westlake's The Ax, one of my many acquisitions from Berkeley's mah-vel-ous used book stores. The book's the kind of piece of work people describe as "hard-hitting"; it's about a guy who gets downsized right out the door from his company, can't get a new job, and finally finds his dream job after getting increasingly desparate over a couple years. The problem is that someone else already has his dream job. Our narrator decides that the solution is to kill that someone else - but first, he's got to kill the other people on the market for a job who have a better chance of getting his dream job than him.

It's a good book, very tightly plotted - in non-buzzword lingo, the story gets right to the point - and it really is difficult to stop reading once you've started. Unless you've got a repulsion for rooting for an effective serial killer. I did wonder why, on the Character side of things, would someone like this think to resort to killing. The fact that he kills is reasonable (as much as it can be) within the story's context, but it's not super clear what gave him that idea in the first place. It's not like crazy murderous ideas don't happen to Joe Average Ordinary Person, but we tend to bend under the iron hand of Social Tradition and put those naughty thoughts right out of our minds. Then again, worrying about this is kind of missing the point. The book's clearly in the realm of social satire, in all its bitter pointedness. The ending is rather surprising in that he neither gets caught nor 'redeemed' in the way these tales usually go. And being surprising is always a plus.

I've got a question, though: [SPOILER ALERT!] Would someone like this really THINK to resort to killing - and do it so well?

No comments: