Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rhubarb Culture: A Review

Doug Shear's Rhubarb Culture is a satirical book of survivalism in a slow economic collapse set in Miami Florida.  A young couple tries to earn enough cash to make the most of their survivalist compound (off stage) while working for a boss who is an insane business tycoon, and also dealing with the local suicide cult.

Doug Shear, a native of Miami, is a writer, and stand up comic. As he puts it, "Since the Great Recession I've tried to eke out a living by creating websites, growing a cactus and succulent nursery, teaching marketing, spying on my neighbors for the US Census Bureau and much more".
The story involves a young survivalist couple, the mechanizations of an insane business mogul who he comes to work for and Rhubarb. Rhubarb being the name of the very large lady who is the guru of the local, gone national through the media, suicide cult.  With much of the population unemployed and desperate, their activities are tolerated, possibly even condoned.  Rhubarb is an honest broker, who is channeling a spirit who is giving her the information with which she started her cult.
Without getting into too many details, the story is that of the young couple.  The "boyfriend" is a night watchman, posted near a bridge, who eventually starts saving people who try to take their life by jumping off the bridge.  One day he saves a beautiful young Cuban woman, and that is the start of a rather nice part the story.   He gets a job with the insane business mogul, and is sent out to spy on Rhubarb.  At some point the business man decides to kidnap Rhubarb so that he can interrogate her about her channeling abilities.  It just gets crazier from there.
As I noted above, it is all rather satirical.  The couples story is a nice one, and Rhubarb's rather sad. It is funny at points, if not an hysterical read.
Did I like it.  Yes, if not fanatically so.  It is just a nice, not all that serious, story.  It is not that clear what the purpose behind it is, other than maybe to say something like "love can conquer a lot."
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
It is set in the modern world.  But it is comic satire.  It is not attempting to build an actual world which people live in, but to poke fun at our current one.  No elves and fairies, but a lot of implausible activity.  The survivalism points mentioned seem more to be plot devices than serious attempts at planning.  We will call it a two.
Readability is straight forward.  Satire is not generally a straight read, as there is supposed to be implied meanings behind what is presented.  But much of the satire seems more to the point of having a laugh, rather than making too heavy of a point.  Not enough action for it to move too fast, so we will call it a five.

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