There are a myriad of flavors out there in the literary kitchen and just as many textures, mixes, and creative twists. From time to time, you can come across something that is a strong, expertly crafted flavor that you know has been precisely blended and masterfully cooked but twists in your tongue all the same. You sit there, knowing that while the dish on your plate is not in synch with your own tastes, that it is a great literary recipe all the same. That level of transcendence beyond the reader’s palate is the mark of something special. So have I given away the entire review in the first paragraph?
Read on, literary foodie, and find out! But before you do, let me recount the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
Yes, maybe I did. However, I could start no discussion of the culinary qualities of Cupertino Story without doing so. The basic fact is that Mr. Szymanowski’s stark look at a disassociated generation playing chicken with decadence is a piece of excellent literary cooking yet all the same disturbed me as a reader on a deep level. That, I believe, was the point.
I wasn’t disturbed in some sort of moral outrage. Instead, I was drawn in by the intense realistic depiction of the main character and his world, one that wasn’t unfamiliar to me, and, as that world began to unravel, that deep connection and characterization would often make me pause, having to set the book aside for some time to absorb and process that last twist. In other words, this book is powerful if shocking, certainly pushing the envelope of the average reader’s comfort zones.
That is a good thing. It is important for our notions, our ideas, and our self-image to be pushed out of the norm. We need to try new foods, experience new flavors, travel the literary world (and the real one) to truly understand who we are and where we are. Aiding in that is one of the greatest strengths of this short yet weighty tale.
To touch on the core mechanics of Mr. Szymanowski’s recipe, the author touches almost all of the right steps in his wordcraft. Characterization, as I mentioned, is intense for the main character and suitably dream-like for most of the minor characters, fitting the tone of the piece immensely. Speaking of tone, the mood, the setting, and the wordplay itself all create this bleak and at times twisted scene. Foreshadowing is done neatly and subtly, while still leaving seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind as to just what is going on. If I were to have any qualms at all with the recipe, it is that the pacing is a little slow after the initial hook. Not impossibly slow but slow enough that I did notice the change of pace. In the end though, this is, at most, a minor quibble that detracts almost nothing from the book as a whole.
There really is little else I can say without intense spoilers so let me wrap this up as best I can. Cupertino Story is a bleak but startling realistic tale of disaffected youth, the onset of decadence, and the unraveling of one young man’s life in the middle of it. It’s powerful, disturbing and shocking at turns, but well worth the read. However, anyone that is put off by depictions of graphic violence, the effects of drug abuse, or sexual content should turn this dish down. Everyone else, give this a go. It may not be an easy read but its worth the work to swallow it down.
UPDATE! Nothing changed here save for relinking to the newest release on the book and updated cover art.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A bitter meal to swallow but the expert blends and stark realism make it worth the effort!)