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marlena

marlena

Hell - Robert Olen Butler If Hell were a 79¢ microwavable burrito it would come in the green wrapper and it's flavor would be mild.

I bought this book when it first came out, having excited myself over the synopsis. A snarky, adult, pop-culture referencing trip through Hell? That's so up my alley. I had started it immediately but according to the old receipt-turned-bookmark I only made it to page 40. What had happened?

Probably not by coincidence, it was around page 40 on the reread that I realized why I dropped Hell the first time.

I don't care about any of the characters. And I don't mean 'care' as in "have strong emotion for". I mean care as in "give at least half a shit about". At least half!

The constant name-dropping of a known persons (dead or just fictionally dead) was fun at first. It really was! George W. Bush? Funny! Albert Speer? A well used reference! Snoop Dogg? Eh, this is getting embarrassing. It became so tiring. Who's Hatcher McCord gonna walk by next?? The author photo on the back flap of the dust jacket shows Butler's floating, disembodied head lurking near a computer screen. I can only imagine that after the camera clicked, Butler immediately reopened Wikipedia in a new tab, repeatedly hit Random Page, and thought aloud "Alright, who else can I squeeze into this bitch?"

I spent most of the book prepared to give it a very generous three stars, until the unreadable, unforgivable departure into the succubus story. And I say unreadable not only because it was shit (and it was), but because I could not harness my eyeballs to stop rolling into oblivion, which makes it hard keep one's place on the page. This abysmal hackitude knocked the whole novel back to a well-deserved if only theoretical zero stars (c'mon Goodreads, some things really are that bad!)

Sadly, from this point the book never really recovers. Hell's schtick just gets older and more tiresome and you just want it to be over. The moralizing at the end felt empty and unlearned, being handed to you rather than extrapolated from the story.

...But, I did laugh. Even out loud sometimes! And Butler does have a talent for dialogue, which was clever without beating you over the head about how clever it was being. Kudos, I guess.

It was a strange feeling, this book. When I put it down, after a while I would think about how much I wanted to keep reading. But then, every time I picked it back up I remembered why I had put it down in the first place.

Which is, perhaps, a lot like eating a microwavable burrito.