“Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel” by Rob Roy Okeefe

This is a book of off-the-wall interactive humour, with the author breaking the fourth wall often to speak directly to readers and stopping the story for tongue-in-cheek explanations of esoteric details and facts.

It’s the story of the inability of humans to get along with each other, as typified by small-town civic politics, with a typical political bully as the antagonist. And that’s the last typical element in the story. The methods that local citizens use to select their representatives and to make group decisions are innovative to say the least, but they require the main character’s contrasting attempts to be ordinary to help them win the day.

The plotline is a main source of humour, haring off in all directions, many of them completely unexpected. There are two main plot twists with real punch when they unwind.  As with all books of this type, sometimes the story drags a bit, but there’s always a small quip or break through the fourth wall to keep us entertained while we wait for the next bit of craziness to happen.  And it often does; the density of quirks per page is about average, but the creativity is superior.

Unfortunately, there is one element of the humour that doesn’t work. The technique of stepping into a sidebar to give some humorous comments on the story must be used with caution because it necessarily interferes with the flow of the action. Asking the reader to jump out of the story for a joke, then reset to get back into the emotional flow can be irritating if it happens at a point of interest. Worse, humour tends to relieve tension, so inserting a joke at a suspense point lowers the enjoyment of the conflict.

In this story, the author goes one step further, footnoting with hypertext to the appendix for quasi-intellectual explication, historical explanations of nursery rhymes and the like. I must admit I stopped following these side paths, entertaining as they were, intending to read them all later. When I did read them, they were out of context, and not so funny as they otherwise might have been.

Most of the characters in the story are cartoonish and zany: one only speaks in movie titles, another only with “knock, knock” jokes, and a librarian who doesn’t believe in books. However, the main character and his wife are just normal enough to keep our sympathy and just weird enough to keep us expecting more fun and games.

A very entertaining read. Not “perfectly absurd,” but very close to it.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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