Joey Slinger's novel Punch Line is short at 230 pages, but it's an entertaining read. A dark comedy for sure – the story is basically about a bunch of geriatrics living in a retirement home who decide to knock off some very bad people. The idea being that their old and close to death – so what can the cops possibly do if they find out?
We get to see their reasoning behind selecting the people they do, and then watch as they follow through with their schemes to kill the baddies; and most of the plans described in the book go awry in the actual execution. That's what makes it so entertaining.
It's mostly vignettes though rather than a fully formed story. While the vignettes are held together by a few things – like the seniors' efforts to stay ahead of an aging cop who starts to suspect them – it's stretching it to call it a novel. I can't help but feel it could have been better if it had been fleshed out a bit more as a single story. But then, I'm not a huge fan of vignettes – that's just me.
I did find the style to be a bit over the top. The world these people live in is just a little 'off' compared to the real world:
- There's the ghost of a dead husband that shouts profanities at his widow over the residence loudspeakers, a situation just accepted by the seniors as normal. The cause is never really explained in the novel.
- There's the plan of one senior to develop a market for replacement bodies (like organ donors, but with the husk of the body instead of the insides) that seems tohave some measure of success – something that wouldn't happen in real life.
- There's the scheme to replace cash with arrowroot cookies which, while hilarious, is too weird to ring true.
It's not really a bad thing, but it makes the book feel a bit schizophrenic – like Slinger wanted to write a cyberpunk novel and ended up writing a dark comedy instead.
But all in all, I have to say I did enjoy this book and it's message that people shouldn't be considered useless just 'cuz they get old. I'd easily recommend this as a read – especially for people who like black humour.