My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I hate television. Well, I should actually say that I hate most television. There is very little that I like to watch, and I find the whole thing rather mind-numbing.
So, when I saw The Church of TV as God by Daniel Vlasaty was a part of this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series, it caught my attention. This series is one I look forward to every year as it brings us new voices in fiction to delight and challenge us.
Right away, the title grabs you, or at least it grabs me given how much I dislike television and really do feel like many people have turned their homes into TV shrines…okay, okay, I’ll stop with my own social commentary. The cover is brilliant, and it vaguely reminds me of the cover of Amusing Ourselves to Death.
Jeremy is a security guard at the Appliance Cemetery, a place where people go to bury their appliances that no longer work (yeah, Jeremy doesn’t really get it, either; I think someone just found a niche and filled it). Jeremy is befriended by a talking dog named Benjamin (yes, he’s just as confused by that as you are). Jeremy’s head is also turning into a TV. It’s a family thing, as it happened to his father before him. It’s because of this that he has drawn the attention of the man in white, the leader of a cult called the Church of TV as God. They think Jeremy is the chosen one whose destiny is to father their savior, the living embodiment of their deity, the Great TV in the Sky. Got it?
Okay, that’s a lot to take in, but it all ties together, I swear.
The characters are well-drawn. Jeremy is sort of a slacker. He doesn’t have any real goals in life other than existing, so when he is thrust into this situation, he has to break out of his character mold and take action. Benjamin is hysterical. While somewhat foul-mouthed, you can easily picture dogs saying the things he says. The cult followers are about as cultish as you can get, with a fanatical leader who believes his own doctrine. The most dangerous kind of cult leader. Overall, the characters work and play off of each other quite well.
The plot can be a little slow to get started. It takes a little while for things to really start happening. The action ramps up, but it does so in spurts. When it ramps up, it stays that way, but the pace doesn’t change slowly. It’s like slamming your foot on the gas pedal while you’re at a full stop. It feels a little jerky at time, but oddly not inappropriately so. The ending is…unexpected. Things don’t completely wrap up in a nice, neat little package. At the same time, it’s not necessarily the ending you want but it’s definitely the “ending” the book and the characters need once you give yourself some time to think about it.
As for the editing, well, I wish I could say it worked well, but there are enough grammatical and punctuation issues to be a problem. Technical errors bother me, as they are great for ripping the reader off the page. There are enough in here to interrupt the flow and be a problem for me, and I have to take the book down a notch for it.
Overall, The Church of TV as God is a good book with a well-drawn characters (and character development), a satisfying if occasionally jerky plot, and social commentary well-seeded into the story, which I have to give some prop for as seeding heavy social commentary into bizarro fiction in an appropriate way is not that easy. At the same time the occasional jerkiness of the plot may throw some readers off, and the technical errors are something you’ll have to be aware of and overlook to get your full enjoyment out of this book.
The Church of TV as God by Daniel Vlasaty earns 4 orange extension cords out of 5.