If you’re a fan of Deus Ex Malcontent, you probably don’t even need to read this review on Chez Pazienza’s self-published memoir, Dead Star Twilight. You’ve probably already read it, and, even if you haven’t, you already know it’ll be good. Regular readers of Deus Ex Malcontent have been treated with snippets of this long-awaited book for quite some time now. In fact, I’ll cut to the chase right now just so that fans will have immediate confirmation of what they already know: It’s awesome.
I admit that I had my doubts. Just because a guy can maintain an entertaining blog doesn’t necessarily mean he can write a full-scale memoir. That’s why, as I downloaded my copy of Dead Star Twilight, I began to regret accepting this assignment. My glee at scoring a free review copy was sullied by the anxiety that plagued me on several levels. My biggest fear was an ethical one: What if Chez, a friend of Pajiba and an occasional contributor to the site, had written a steaming turd? How could I continue to call ‘em like I see ‘em and yet not look like a total choad in the process?
My other fear was logistical: How the hell could I finagle printing 300+ pages at work without getting caught? I’m nearly blind as it is, so I couldn’t imagine staring at the computer screen and reading for hours on end. The alternative, however, was just as horrifying. I could just envision my boss reaching the communal printer first, picking up a particularly juicy page that begins with “Okay, look you fucking arrogant cocksucker.”
Thankfully, both fears were unfounded. I never needed to print it. I didn’t have the time. Simply put, Dead Star Twilight is good. So good, in fact, that I never needed to hijack my office printer and risk getting my ass chewed out. Once I started reading, great stretches of text quickly passed beneath the cute little grabby-hand of Adobe Reader, and I’d read nearly a hundred pages before it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet printed a single page.
It’s hard not to be hooked from the opening lines, which describe Chez’s first morning in New York City in the wake of both national and personal disaster. It’s September, 2001. Just as the nation struggles to rise from the ashes of national tragedy, Chez is also beginning to rise from the ashes of his former life. He’s just spent several weeks in rehab battling a nine-month heroin addiction that wreaked havoc upon his marriage, his career, and his finances. Facing his second divorce, an uncertain future, and doubts about his own ability to remain sober, Chez draws strength from the resiliency of New York and its citizens as he covers the aftermath of 9/11.
That’s not to say this is a feel-good work that makes recovery seem as simple as a walk in the Big Apple. Far from it in fact, as evidenced by the second chapter, which takes us back in time to one month earlier, as Chez begins the long detox that marks the beginning of his recovery. This shifting narration (which is divided into three chronological threads covering Chez’s addiction, recovery, and redemption) is quite effective, as it allows us to see the events that culminated in his entering rehab at the same time we watch the recovering addict redeem himself. This division of time is handled expertly, and such shifts aren’t complicated or forced. Greater still is his ability to maintain suspense: even though we know from the beginning that he’s already hit rock bottom, Chez doesn’t tip his hand too soon, as the depths to which he’s truly capable of sinking aren’t revealed until the end.
Chez doesn’t veer away from relating even his lowest moments with brutal honesty, and the reader can’t help but be sucked along by his prose, the conciseness and power of which mimic his exploits. It’s impossible to get bored; there simply isn’t enough time. Scenes of intense action are packed into short, powerful chapters that follow one another with breathtaking speed. I could be more specific, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it, and you might not believe me anyway.
So now we’ve reached the part of the review in which I say, “That’s not to say Dead Star Twilight isn’t without its flaws…” or something equally lame. Unfortunately, I’m at a loss. Sure, it’s not perfect, but a specific weakness? There isn’t one. True, I’d like more Jayne, but that’s beside the point. Oh, and I’d like Kara’s real name. (Please? I swear I won’t tell a soul. You can tell me. It’s Ann Coulter, isn’t it? ISN’T IT???? I knew it!)
Dead Star Twilight surpassed my expectations. It’s fascinating. It’s well-written. And it’s highly entertaining, even if I was a little disgusted at times.
You can download Dead Star Twilight over at Chez’s blog, Deus Ex Malcontent.
Jennifer McKeown reads way too much and blogs about her experiences over at Bibliolatry.
Dead Star Twilight by Chez Pazienza / Jennifer McKeown
Book Reviews | April 14, 2008 | Comments ()