With Apologies to Kanye

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Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you’ve ever caught yourself spiraling down a YouTube conspiracy rabbit hole or wondering if those clouds on the tabloid really look like Jesus, then Chad Descoteaux’s “The Tattler” might be your next read.

In “The Tattler,” young photographer Barry has fallen into using his talents for no good as a paparazzo. Formerly a photographer at a well-known newspaper, a nasty breakup and a mysterious past involving a possible childhood alien abduction that he (in)conveniently can’t remember has left him a little lost. His latest assignment has led him down a path that will change his life – and the rest of the world – forever.

The world Descoteaux has built here is eerily similar to our own, but everything you can imagine from the tabloids – fish men, aliens, Elvis, Bigfoot, and more – are all real. Otherwise, it’s the world where we spend our days. The tale was a fun, fantastical, and easy to read. Descoteaux clearly has a great understanding of the genre and wields it well. I’ll be honest. Sci-fi isn’t my usual genre, and I enjoy humor immensely, but someone trying to tell you why and how something is funny is the least funny thing I can imagine.

Overall, I felt the characters could have used a little more depth, but this was clearly a plot-driven story. More character development wouldn’t have hurt. As it was, he did big chunks of character development through information dumps that felt like being sidelined with a weird plot jump. For example, at what felt like the climax of the story, we suddenly jumped to the backstory of the loveable Sasquatch character. Incredibly interesting, but there was probably a better time for it.

Like many writers in the genre, Descoteaux’s female characters were a weird mix of strong and and stereotyped. In a sea of dunces, the leading female character is a genius riddled by insecurity and too willing to forgive some pretty serious #metoo behavior fairly quickly. It made it harder to connect with and root for the majority of the human characters.

However, Descoteaux’s strength was in humanizing the non-human characters. Even the bad guys felt more fleshed out and relatable. The biggest plot twist involved one of my favorite characters being an alien, and he was a guy I could imagine sitting down for a beer (or a coffee with) and discussing the news of the world. Other beloved characters include a Sasquatch and a cyborg. But, maybe like the human women who married some of these non-human character’s, I’m just a little off-kilter. You’ll have to make that judgment on your own.

Barry, the main character, was extremely hard to relate to, and for me to like. This makes sense, because this story definitely appears to be a redemption story. One of the big story arcs, which you find out in the first chapter, is that something bad happened to Barry when he was young. His best friend Scott remembers, but Barry doesn’t. This missing time seems to have left Barry adrift.

Lost boys – or men – is a common theme in life and literature. I’m sure we’ve all known a guy – or let’s not be sexist here – a person who has wandered through life with little ambition or direction. That’s Barry. He’s content taking pictures and living life day to day, much to the detriment of his personal relationships. This tale is, among other things, the story of how Barry finds purpose in his life. But that often makes for an unloveable chief character who is hard to root for, which is fine. A story doesn’t need a loveable main character, it just needs a story you want to hear. And ultimately, Descoteaux provided that in spades.

This was a much easier to read than most sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve read. Many of them take themselves extra seriously, but this one was an incredibly fun light read that almost seemed to making fun of itself and a bit the genre. It was hilarious much of the time, and serious at others. Despite being a frequently comedic work, it still served as a solid piece of social commentary that conveyed the message without beating you over the head with it. Others made me sick within a few chapters with their preachy and utopian attempt, while this made me laugh, feel something deep, and still gave me plenty to think about in the end.

I’ve never reviewed an audiobook, though I’ve listened to plenty of them. The audiobook was what I received. Mostly, the voice actor blends into the story. Or, sometimes, they become an integral part of it. For example, Will Patton reading The Raven Cycle stories will always be one of my favorite literary experiences. I’m from the Deep South, and his rich Southern drawl could lull me into a comfortable stupor any day.

But Matt Weisgerber, the voice actor reading “The Tattler,” was a rare exception. I didn’t prefer his delivery, and in some ways it frequently detracted from the story. The most noticeable issue was the fact that the main character was a photographer, and Weisgerber’s pronunciation of picture was distracting throughout the entire book. This could be a regional issue from wherever he’s from, and Lord knows as a Southerner I don’t have a lot of room to pick at other people’s accents. But it was a bit of a nail on chalkboard situation. It wasn’t enough to ruin it for me, but it was worse than I’d have liked.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story, and if you like humor, light fantasy, science fiction, aliens, or poking fun at the Kardashians and Kanye, definitely give it a read. Unless you really need to use the audiobook version, I’d consider sticking to the written form for this one, though.

Alien books aren’t my usual jam, but I love some Doctor Who so, when the author offered me a free copy, I was excited to try it, and I’m happy I did. Look for my review of the follow up “The Tattler: Losing Time” coming soon.

Trigger Warnings: Racism, Fear, Fighting, Gore, Stalking, Sexism