From that summary you might think you won't like Ben, O, and Chon. Drug dealers? C'mon. But you will. They are not so very different from many of the bright, fun-loving, intelligent young people who got their sheepskins this last spring. But they are, taken as a whole, an unusual trinity: Ben, the genius in botany; Chon, the soldier; O, the rebellious daughter and free-spender. But they aren't just close friends, they are loyal and have good hearts and intentions. The Cartel -- not so much. To survive, Ben and O and Chon will have to set aside their good intentions, their veneer of civilization, and reveal themselves to be just as savage as their enemies.
Don Winslow is getting rave reviews for this book and deservedly so. The prose is cool, clipped, and the word games alone will knock you sideways. And as with all great books, there's more than just a story here. Commentaries and revelations abound, on our culture (carelessness, stupidity, and greed), and on our politics, and there's a stunningly beautiful parable to be found as well. The third-person narrative voice (Greek chorus?) is detached, cynical, wise, street-wise, and more than a trifle bitchy. Love, says the narrator, will make you weak, then goes on to reveal how love also makes one strong.
Winslow applies wit, worldview, and savagery (yes, that's the word) to the American dream, speaking to American society as a whole about how we define ourselves and how other cultures define us; about what, if anything, separates the savage from the civilized; and he speaks in a sometimes staccato, sometimes sensuous, rapid-fire wordsmithing that is both enlightening and entertaining. Savages is worthy of multiple reads (or listens, because the audio version is brilliantly read by Michael Kramer), and you won't get these characters, or their story, out of your head for -- maybe never. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. AND THEN SOME.
My neverending gratitude goes to Michael for providing me with the wonderful (and autographed!) audio edition of Savages. I can honestly say that if asked which I preferred, audio or hardcopy, I could not choose. If you are as lucky as I am and have the opportunity to experience both, do so. This is a work that easily eclipses its format.
Here is an excerpt in which O and Chon first see the video clip involving the severed heads.
RU Reddy 4--
Gay decapitation porn?!
O knows that Chon is seriously twisted -- no, she knows that Chon is seriously twisted -- but not like day-old-spaghetti-in-a-bowl twisted, like getting off on guys getting their heads lopped off, like that TV show about the British king, every cute chick he fucks ends up getting her head cut off. (Moral of television show: if you give a guy really good head (heh heh), he thinks you're a whore and breaks up with you. Or: Sex = Death.)
"Who sent this to you?" O asks him.
Is it viral, floating around on YouTube, the MustSee vid-clip of the day? MySpace, Facebook (no, that isn't funny), Hulu? Is this what everyone's watching today, forwarding to their friends, you gotta check this out?
"Who sent this to you?" she repeats.
"Savages," Chon says.