Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: Snake Typhoon! by Billie Jones

Snake Typhoon!

Written by: Billie Jones

Published: 2014

Synopsis: When unseasonable weather hits the sunshine city of Brisbane, a freak typhoon terrorizes the citizens. It’s not just any typhoon though, it’s a snake typhoon! And the deadliest snakes in Australia, with venomous fangs are flying straight for Kez.

Kez is the new girl in the office and she’s desperately fighting to prove herself, but what’s a girl to do when faced with a typhoon of snakes coming straight for her helicopter?

These flying diabolical snakes will stop at nothing to kill their victims and Kez only has one option: Figure out how to stop a snake typhoon and save the world... or die trying!

I like a lot of different genres of films, but the films that give me perhaps the most joy are terrible, terrible B grade action/horror films. There are bad movies and the there are the so-bad-they're-actually-amazing bad movies. Some are filled with A-list stars with a primo budget while others are basically passion projects made by amateur filmmakers with wannabe actors rounding out the cast. The things they all share though, is how wonderfully awful they are. The Room, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, Raging Sharks, Super Mario Brothers are some of the best example of these, and seriously, if you've never seen The Room or Raging Sharks then hop to it, because they will make your ribs crack you'll laugh so hard.

And shockingly, these sorts of films actually turn out to be quite profitable. If you make a bad movie bad enough, you end up with a cult following, midnight screenings across the globe and doors opening where they really shouldn't. Sure they won't land you the Oscar these filmmakers probably think they deserve, but they'll make you into a household name, and sometimes that's good enough. This is why we get the bad bad movies, films like Sharknado and Birdemic, films that set out to be terrible and succeed in being terrible because they are far too self-aware and therefore miss that crucial ingredient that flips them back over to awesome. This is all a very complicated way of introducing the book Snake Typhoon, which falls somewhere in between the so-bad-it's good and bad-bad categories.

I originally accepted this book for review for two reasons. First, the whole premise is an attempt to parody a so-bad-it's-good movie in book form and second, it's set in Brisbane, which is where I'm sitting right now. I will help Brisbane represent itself any way I can. I think the book delivered on both fronts, although since most of the book takes place around the red heart of Australia maybe I should expand my Brissy reppin' to the more general Aussie reppin'. The book utilises a lot of the bad movie tropes; terrible dialogue, clunky transitions, nonsensical plot progression, stereotypical characters, sign-posting for an awful sequel, deus ex machina and unscientific science, but it does these things on purpose. It was a fun and silly read and because of the purposeful attempt to replicate bad movies it was almost impossible to predict where things were going. There were some genuinely good tongue-in-cheek moments, like when the pilot points out to our protagonist Kez that we call typhoons cyclones in Australia, and she shoots back that "Snake Cyclone" doesn't sound as good, or when a character dies Kez is told not to be sad because he "believes in the afterlife". It's over the top and ridiculous and it’s laugh out loud funny at times.

But it isn't all good-bad. Like I mentioned before, when something sets out to parody or replicate the good-bad movie it's usually too self-aware and completely misses the mark. I felt like that was the case here unfortunately. Some of the jokes and bad movie tropes were just too on the nose. Like the sudden shift in romantic interest for Kez or the repeated comments saying things to the effect of "don't worry, we can't die, they need us for the sequel". It takes you out of the moment and forces you to acknowledge that it's a bad-movie imitation rather than just overwhelming you with its nonsensical passion and hilarity.

But if you've always wanted to read your bad movies, and go into this knowing it's a parody of the B-grade movie genre then I think you'll probably have a pretty great time reading it. Kez is a strange protagonist, she kind of feels like the "ugly" version of the female lead in those early 2000s movies like She's All That. She has terrible self-esteem, is nervous about her job but a complete over-achiever, talks too much and seems a little dorky. But as the book goes on she gains more confidence (but probably shouldn't, she makes some terrible judgement calls) and takes charge of the situation. It's completely ridiculous but she's still kind of kick ass, and I'll take my kick ass females where ever I can, bad movie parody or no.


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