Title: The Fictional Man
Author: Al Ewing
Genre: Science Fiction
Number of Pages: 211
This novel is brilliant. It’s the kind of thing I wish I had thought up myself. I loved it’s humor and it’s crazy world-building, and I even enjoyed it’s absolute egocentric asshole of a protagonist. The Fictional Man is set in a world where fictional characters can be grown in a tube and thrown into real life with their backstories programmed into them. Narcissistic author Niles has a fictional psychiatrist and a fictional best friend, although both of these people are placed in his life largely so he can exercise his own sense of superiority.
Niles is a not-very-good writer who wants to turn his most successful character into a ‘fictional,’ and even the advice of his friend Bob (a washed-up superhero, who’s ‘public access’ so there’s more than one of him) doesn’t help Niles to see what a tricky moral situation bringing a fictional character into the real world is.
Niles is trying to write a screenplay for a sleazy James Bond clone while being a shitty friend to Bob and dealing with the fallout of his half-million extramarital affairs, and the novel isn’t so much about the destination of Niles’ story has how it gets there. The author obviously had a great handle on different facets of pop culture and he includes a lot of funny references and send-ups of various tropes throughout the story.
I particularly got a kick out of Niles’ ongoing internal writer dialogue, he’s such a dickhead but his hubristic flights of fancy (like Ralphie’s daydreams in A Christmas Story) are spot-on and guiltily relatable. Niles isn’t much of a hero but like Winston Smith in 1984, his unlikability compliments the darkness of the dystopian society in which he lives.
The Fictional Man might seem overly random and outrageous to some, but for me all the weird details are part of what made it a terrific read. I don’t read books that make me laugh out loud very often, but this novel had some truly hysterical lines while also containing a strong sense of pathos.