The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Book Club ~ 'The Dewey Decimal System'

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Book Club ~ 'The Dewey Decimal System'

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week from Jocelyn

The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson

It is NOT about this. Promise.
Don’t be fooled by the generic title – this one is as dark noir as they come, and well worth your time. Especially if you like post-apocalyptic stuff as much as I do.  This book is reminiscent of the Adam Sternbergh Spademan books, which I mean as the highest compliment.

Dewey Decimal is a bi-racial man - without a memory or a past (or even a name, Decimal being a name others have bestowed) – he lives in the NYC Public Library, where he is working on reorganizing the entire catalog in the absence of computers after something everyone just refers to as “2/14” – whatever happened on that Valentine’s Day has left New York in shambles, with fewer than a million residents and plenty of large-scale problems, not the least of which are the food shortage and a pervasive stench that comes in off the water around the entire city. Unless I accidentally missed a chapter, I don’t think Larson ever explains what exactly happened on 2/14 – and I thought that was awesome, because, ultimately – who cares? Whatever happened, happened before we met these characters, and as it turns out, we’ll only be riding along with Dewey for a short period of his life – especially since he can’t remember who he was before he was Dewey Decimal. His “system” involves lots of unidentified pills that he has to take at very specific intervals, and regular OCD quirks like only making left turns prior to 11 am and dosing himself in Purell ™ whenever he touches, well, just about anything.

Aside from his personal library project, Decimal stays busy doing whatever unelected District Attorney Daniel Rosenblatt tells him to do – so when Rosenblatt instructs him to find and eliminate one Yakiv Shapsko, a Ukrainian agitator, Decimal dutifully heads off to do just that. He is sidetracked, however, as men so often are, by a woman, in this case one Iveta Shapsko, Yakiv’s equally dangerous (and estranged) wife, who shoots Decimal in the knee before fleeing when he tries to talk to her. Decimal is apparently important enough to warrant a titanium knee replacement at a medical hospital, which stirs up vague memories of a prior hospital stay, and dull curiosity about who he really is and what was done to him there.

Decimal walks the streets – a lot – and a large part of the appeal of this book was the language – consider this description as he walks: “Outside the projects, even the garbage strewn around the playground is straight-up cliché. Empty bottles of Olde English malt liquor, Cheetos bags, chicken bones, a stray toddler-sized Reebok." Super evocative stuff. 

Eventually he is summoned to meet with Yakiv, who makes him an offer he probably shouldn’t refuse – the job is killing Iveta. Yakiv further educates Decimal by describing how Iveta came to him via a Serbian warlord by the name of Branko Jokanovic. Jokanovic is going to be an important part of Iveta’s story and Yakiv makes it clear how brutal he is.

Author Nathan Larson
Off Decimal goes to find Jokanovic and Iveta. There are lots of obstacles, of course, including FBI thugs, Croation Mafiosi, his own internal systems, and a lack of decent transportation. Great set pieces include car chases, gun fights, and the discovery of the mummified hand of John the Baptist.  Yeah, you heard me.  Through it all Decimal makes some unwise choices, commits some selfless acts, and judges those around him and his own motivations. In other words, he is fully human.  A well-drawn character in a bleak noir tale?  PLUS a few twists towards the end?  Take me, Nathan Larson, I’m yours. 

Hardcover Honey verdict – 4 out of 5 Purell ™ bottles for this one!