Care to hear something dumb? I didn't read a single novel in 2013 (although, I read comics and magazines). Barf.
While I'm not a New Year resolution guy, I set a goal to read more in 2014, and decided to kick things off with Whispering Bodies, written by Jesse Michaels. Well, after two sittings, the book has been read. Granted, it was only 209 pages, so it wasn't too terribly long. Still, in two days I read more than I did last year.
I knew absolutely nothing about Whispering Bodies when I cracked it open, except that it was written by Michaels, which is all I needed to know. Michaels was the singer in Operation Ivy, a short-lived punk-ska band from the Bay Area (active from '87-'89). Even though the band only had one official release, that record is, without a doubt, the most influential record of my life. I heard OPIV at a very young age (fourth or fifth grade), and their music and message has stuck with me to this day. OPIV goes down as one of my favorite bands, as Michaels himself ranks him at the top of my favorite lyricists. So, in other words, it was a no-brainer to read his first novel.
Whispering Bodies is a rather simple and straight-forward story: a mysterious death occurs in Roy Belkins' San Francisco apartment, and he sets out to solve the crime. Keep in mind that he is not a detective. He's not really anything, to be honest. However, it's the characters that give this book something more. Every single person in this narrative is a character amongst characters, especially Belkin. The level of absurdity is established rather quick, and it's clear that the world Belkin lives in is almost a caricature of the one we know. Between the murder mystery aspect and the characters (not to mention their interactions, situations, and general behavior), I can't help but think of Whispering Bodies as an urban Twin Peaks.
I knew Michaels had a way with words due to his lyrics, but I wasn't sure how they would hold up on a page. Not that I doubted him for a moment, but it's a shift in gears. Nevertheless, he nailed fictional writing. What surprised me the most was the tone and sense of humor throughout. His lyrics (in OPIV, Big Rig, Common Rider, and Classics of Love) are serious, usually touching upon social, cultural, economic, and political issues, and while there's remnants of that in Bodies, there's such an offbeat humor that more than excels. I certainly was laughing out loud on a very regular basis.
You don't have to be familiar with the music, or Twin Peaks for that matter (since I mentioned it). Whispering Bodies stands on its on feet, and they're waiting to take you on an adventure through the streets of San Francisco.
Can't recommend this one enough.