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Bill is a nobody, a health inspector who’s not above taking a few dollars to overlook a restaurant’s mouse problem, and hated by nearly everyone except his long-suffering girlfriend. His nephew, Trent, isn’t much better: sexually and morally confused, he’s probably the worst teenage con artist on the East Coast. But today, these two losers are going to become the most important people in the world.
That’s because Bill and Trent harbor a sentient parasite with a sarcastic sense of humor and a ravenous appetite. As the parasite figures out how to control its new human hosts, the focus of its desires grows from delicious cheeseburgers and beer to something much darker and more dangerous.
Absolute Unit is a dark carnival ride through the underside of the American Dream, where hustlers and parasites fight to survive against gun-toting furries, sarcastic drug kingpins, old ladies who are startlingly good with knives, and angry ex-girlfriends. It’s a hardboiled slice of modern American horror that asks the deepest question of all: Is the human race worth saving?
Nick Kolakowski’s new novella, Absolute Unit, starts with a bang. Bill is a corrupt health inspector who likes to drink, do drugs, have sex with his coworker in the office closet, and accept bribes from restaurants. He is also inhabited by a parasite, and what sucks you into the story immediately is the parasite inside Bill is the one telling the story. On a day when Bill is taking his nephew, Trent, with him to work, showing him how he makes his extra money by shaking down restaurants for better inspection ratings, the novella turns into a crime caper. Bill meets his corrupt cop friend, and of course things do not go as planned.
Part pulp crime story, part kaiju horror novella, Absolute Unit really has a lot of different elements. I love the beginning of this story. I love Bill and his wildness. I think the opening of this book is one of my favorites, to the point where I bought a few copies for my friends so that they could read it with me. The first half really is something amazing. The second half did not do it for me. The story switches directions so many times that the end does not even resemble the beginning. And I know that this is how books usually are, but the story seemed to lose steam and the special things that sucked me right into the story were long gone by the end.
I enjoyed the first half of this so much that I still highly recommend it. With Bill’s character moving from a major to a minor character in the story is what changed things for me. I know that many people might not see him as a good person, because he is not, but he is definitely a good character, and it feels like the parasite inside of him is having a great time. We are given a treat with Kolakowski’s new novella, and even though I did not like the second half, it is still a fun novella and a good time. It makes me wish that I had parasites like these.