Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cannonball Read #5: Severance Package, by Duane Swierczynski



I grabbed this off the shelf at the library because I recognized Swierczynski as the former editor of the Philadelphia City Paper. Yes the title blows and the lame ass tag line makes me cringe, but I was dying for a fun thriller damn it, and this didn't let me down. Reading Severance Package (groan) is akin to reading a screenplay written by the coke-addled spawn of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino.

Unabashedly shallow, the book begins with short introductions to a number of characters, all who work together at a high rise in Center City. And BALLS, I already forget what the company was called and I stupidly returned the novel...well, it's a front for a sort of special ops/assassins training division of the government. In true Alias fashion, only a few of the employees know the truth about the people they work for. David, the head of the company, sets up a meeting on an early Saturday morning, only to reveal to the eight people there that all of them have been terminated. And not in the "Oh hell, now I need to relearn the art of cover letters" sort of way, but in the "Surprise! You work for the government, now drink this poisoned mimosa or I'll shoot your ass" way. What happens next is a frenetic exercise in survival, with the employees desperately trying to evade a super assassin while attempting to escape the building.

And that's about it. My true opinion of this book? Fun as hell. There's almost no character development to speak of, so when people start to die (in awesomely gory fashion) it's hard to care since there was never a chance of becoming emotionally involved with any of them. But the plot moves quickly, and there's a decent amount of humor, and I DON'T CARE it's cold out and I wanted to read about people being filleted alive by a wee Russian lady.

There was a recurring annoyance in Severance Package that at times made me want to set fire to Independence Hall. The author is a Philadelphia native, and though I always get a thrill when I see anything related to my beloved hometown, Swierczynski tosses out so many gratuitous Philly references that even I started to curse the land of Billy Penn. Within the first 50 pages he mentioned Market Street, Chestnut Street, Rittenhouse Square, Manayunk, the Liberty Bell, the Gallery, The Continental and various other restaurants, Liberty One, Liberty Two, the Eagles, and OH MY GOD WE GET IT YOU'RE FROM PHILLY, GAAAAAAH!!! A character brings cannolis to the meeting, but they can't just be anonymous cannolis, they have to be cannolis from The Reading Terminal Market. He even mentions The Khyber, my happy hour haven and unofficial Pajiban meeting place.

Despite the rampant homerism, this was a well-paced book that had me hooked early and didn't let up until the final page. And oddly enough, this is one of those rare novels that had me thinking "Hmm...I'd love to see a movie based on this."

2 comments:

Pajibagirl said...

If I ever write a book about Philadelphia the protagonist is going to be a cheesesteak-loving, pretzel-munching Eagles fan who likes to shop at the Gallery, Ride the Ducks, stroll along Penn's Landing and gets a tattoo of the Liberty Bell at a place on South Street.

Wee Russian ladies with filet knives, fun!

belleshpgrl said...

I love a book that doesn't try to be anything it's not. This book will never be considered amazing literature and it doesn't give a rat's ass about it. I appreciate the lack of pretention. There's too much of it in contemporary literature. Then again, maybe I just don't know how to pick 'em.