Permafree via amazon
Every day I scan the daily list of Kindle Free deals. This one caught my eye:
**2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter Finalist**
Dan Jenkins returns from death for a chance to live again. The bodies of killers are his rides.
Before he’s kicked out, Dan needs to stop his hosts from hurting anyone else. It’s one of the rules if he wants more rides. More rides means more movies and fishing trips, and more of those little apple pies they sell at gas stations and convenience stores, because they’re just that good.
For a dead guy, it’s a pretty good gig…until someone changes the rules.
Lots of books sound good, but most do not pass my page one test. I usually go for at least a chapter, then skip ahead to see if it gets better. Novice writers often fail to build momentum until the third chapter or so. I also skip ahead if it looks like a novel might end badly for a character I like. No use investing hours of my life getting attached to someone who just gets bumped off tragically. KICK is one book that didn’t have me looking ahead. No need to. Every page held my attention.
Voice is the first thing I notice, then the opening hook. KICK got me with the first sentence, a nod to Helen of Troy (but this woman who could launch a thousand customer complaints). Dan is cool and cynical, witty and full of surprises–so if anyone besides me is suffering withdrawal from America’s favorite serial killer, Dexter, I have good news: a much better hero is dispatching bad guys, and his name is Dan Jenkins. I’ve read the first and last of the Jeff Lindsay novels that launched the TV show. John L. Monk tops him, easily. The prose is better, the man is better–oh, all right, the man is DEAD, but hey, that doesn’t stop him from finding bullies and administering vigilante justice to them, American style. By that, I mean with cunning, wit, plotting, planning, and good old fashioned bullets. Or whatever means of death is at hand.
Speaking of TV shows, other reviewers have compared this novel to a 1989 TV series, Quantum Leap. If it’s as good as KICK, I’ll watch it, I thought. Ha. Don’t waste your time. If you liked Quantum Leap, you’ll love KICK. If you read and loved KICK first, you’ll probably hate Quantum Leap. The show has none of John L. Monk’s wit and poignant insights. Nor does it have the unique premise of a warning kick from the body’s original inhabitant that this “rider,” Dan, is running out of time. The original owner will fight to get his body back. The third kick sends Dan back into the great wherever awaiting his next ride, sorting through memories and all that he’s learned, and sifting through a catalogue of information he picks up during each ride. It’s a fun plot device, wish fulfillment for fans of science fiction and fantasy: Dan has a lot of useful knowledge tucked into his memory bank.
Sorry, I’m doing no justice to this novel at all. It’s so much more than a Dexter vigilante mission or a Quantum Leap. Ethics, theology, how best to combat evil in our world, all these things require thought. And I just spent a good part of my day (and a chunk of last night) reading KICK because, darn it, I couldn’t put it down. The dishes still aren’t done, and it’s bedtime. I’m mad at John L. Monk for distracting me from the long list of other things that demanded my attention today, but no, KICK got all my attention. Thanks, John. Send over a maid, okay?
With 5,000 titles in my Kindle Fire, I’ve skimmed a lot of page-one or chapter-ones, but rarely, oh, too rarely, does a new book grab me like this one.The voice is authentic,darkly comic, sometimes snarky, sometimes poignant, and consistently thoughtful. John Monk reminds me that reading a book is a great way to get to know a person. I haven’t met John L. Monk, but just from reading his novel, I’d like to. And I’ve often entertained the same thought he attributes to Daniel: “If there were a bar in America with people like the cast from Cheers, I’d go there every chance I could.” Shakespeare spent a lot of time at just such a bar. Hemingway and his ex-patriot friends in Paris did, too. These bars exist. We all just live too far apart to hang out together. Hmm, considering the brilliant output of writers who hang out in bars enjoying great conversations with quirky friends, I suspect I should take up drinking.
Ah, back to Daniel Jenkins, the Rider of all Riders. Dexter–never mind his Dark Passenger; KICK is unique, not derivative–Dexter wasn’t so easy to like. He was a monster, as he liked to remind us. Daniel is no monster. He might have been a morose young man who foolishly took his own life after being dumped by his first girlfriend, but he’s learned a lot since then, and suffered more than enough remorse by now to break free of this cycle of coming back to occupy some bad guy’s body for a few weeks, body after body, like those poor Buddhist souls who come back as bugs, birds, cows, then peasants, then royalty, until Nirvana frees them at last from living in human bodies. Luckily for readers like me, Daniel is much too fond of food and fast cars to quit his gig any time soon. I’m ready for Book 2. Wait, no, no, I need a maid first. KICK is about as addictive as an illegal substance. Like the Surgeon General’s warning on liquor bottles, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval should warn readers to clean up BEFORE they read this novel. Okay. That coffee pot isn’t going to clean itself. It’s bedtime, but I will start those breakfast dishes, now that I finished reading and raving over KICK.
NEXT DAY: I’m back. I still don’t have time to share all the great lines I loved in this novel, but there’s a share page at amazon (I love it and over-use it) where you can see how many lines I highlighted in my Kindle. There were more, but I’d be repeating the whole novel, at the rate I was going. This line is one of my favorites:
— Families and their intrigues exist at the edge of maps, beyond which read, “Here there be dragons.”
Ah, there are so many.
— When you weep in a dream over something and laugh it off in the morning, you’re telling a convenient lie
— my conscience and I were barely on speaking terms
— There’s more to the story, all of it bad, but I’ll hold off there until you’ve gotten to like me more
— killing a scumbag like Stump or Jake rated less trouble than a four-pound tug on a plastic trigger
— Shooting him wasn’t a crime in my book. Knowing his ultimate destination and shooting him anyway? Well, I could almost dwell on that if I were the dwelling type
— Because I have no goals in life or expectations, there aren’t many things that worry me. Not even mall Santas.
— I was struck by a feeling I’d lost something precious to me. But then she saw me, and before I could lay my finger on it, time sped up again.
— he still loved to begin his sentences with the word “actually”–a rhetorical trick he used to place himself in a position of authority in any conversation.
— to just enjoy the little things. Rather than renting a private jet and flying to Hong Kong to buy diamonds at an exclusive auction, perhaps in the company of celebrities like Dionne Warwick or Leonard Nimoy, I ate at the Sweetwater Tavern every night and McDonald’s every morning. I read my book, watched movies and took naps whenever I felt tired. This might seem mundane to some, but to me these ordinary experiences have an unlimited shelf life.
— God or whatever you call him has decided not to interfere in the world unless it’s through an emissary for Good–you know, priests, nuns, Dairy Queen employees
— when God gave out free will, he didn’t give it to man alone–he gave it to the physical universe as a whole. Natural selection is a perfect example of this. God didn’t make the animals, he made the process. That process is randomness.
Okay, I will stop now. Nobody likes long reviews. Just read the book and you’ll see for yourself that it’s even better than I say it is. And don’t think it’s treading old ground. That scene with the camper, the former school teacher and his two former students? I contacted John L. Monk, since he so fearlessly posts his email address in the book, welcoming feedback. Just as I suspected, John wrote that scene before Breaking Bad was ever on his radar. As an author and work shopper, I’ve seen so many cases of this happening. I hadn’t even heard of Dexter until I googled serial killers in fiction, and I dropped the vigilante mother from my own novel after I started watching Dexter.
Don’t let me get started on dreams. The overpass dream with the angels? Powerful scene, vivid, authentic–it just had to be a real dream that the author dreamed in real life. I dared to ask if I was right. Indeed. Now that’s the kind of genuine, believable, fully human touch that makes me love a novel the way I love KICK.
Other reviewers point out minor flaws in the novel. My degree is in English teaching; I’m a book critic; I find plot holes in all stories and TV shows. Dexter has more plot holes than the poor battered face of the moon. And yet I was riveted to every episode.
–Yes! I hear you. I will stop talking now and let you read KICK.
Before you go, remember to look for John on facebook and twitter and his blogsite, but don’t have TOO much fun with him via social media. I found him before you did, and lots of great indie authors followed him before I did, so we can’t let him get too famous. John, don’t worry, I won’t do the Stephen King thing (Misery). Unless you fail to get that sequel out soon. Then an army of angry fans might lock you up on a cabin and not let you out until you deliver more of Dan Jenkins, America’s favorite new serial killer.