DiscoverScience Fiction

Piss & Vinegar


Must read 🏆

Unforgettable book from a forgotten writer. This book is a treasure and I highly recommend it.

I am quite honestly blown away by how good this book is. Based on another reader’s review, I skipped ahead to the section “About the Author” to learn more about Sam Sumac. I wondered whether it was a continuation of the story somehow, but looked it up and there is an actual Sam Sumac Association devoted to sharing his work. I, for one, am thankful because this is a talent that deserves recognition. It seems that Sam wrote this book (and others) after his return from deployment in Vietnam. I point that out to draw attention to the fact that his futuristic science fiction was sent in 1984, when he envisioned President Ted Kennedy (and I don’t think he particularly cared for him). 

The story is not entirely original (he even references the old black and white alien movies), but it is told in an original way with many elements that I have not seen prior to this. For example, what if an alien ship arrived carrying two species of aliens? And what if what the aliens had to offer us presented a devil’s bargain for what we might be willing to give up in exchange? I appreciated the fact that alien ships landed in multiple places throughout the world simultaneously. It’s nice when the US isn’t considered the capital of the world by invading aliens, as is too often the case (at least in movies). Sam Sumac’s insight into domestic terrorist groups and their connections to white supremacy and Christianity is surprisingly timely. 

The story is told from the POV of Vice President James Fenimore Hunter (first-person past-tense). He is journaling the events leading up to the destruction of the world and he starts from the end, then works his way back to the beginning, ending up with a present-tense telling. It is masterfully done. VP Hunter is plagued with regret for all of the decisions he made and the actions he took that led to the annihilation of so many, and he hopes to absolve himself of the guilt he feels. Unfortunately, after writing of the events, he rereads his writing and sees himself as the villain and wonders how he can make things right. If nothing else, he hopes his journal will help guide those who seek to rebuild after he made such a mess of things. He is a sympathetic character and it’s difficult to read this without wondering how you would react in the same situation. What mistakes would you make? Is he really such a bad guy? Or was he just weak?

The writing is clever (calling a government operation code-name Pajama Bottoms) and engaging and the plot moves forward at a relentless pace. It never drags and it never feels rushed. I just wanted to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen next, and it really is nothing I could have entirely predicted. There were some great quotes too, none of which really need context to be appreciated: 

“I’d been involved in politics long enough to know more swallowing than spitting happens in Washington.” 

“Isn’t it sad to say it is those people who are the most focused on doing something positive for the greater good who are the easiest to bamboozle and lead astray?”

“I was suddenly struck by the funny notion that the day’s actions were going to be like a tap-dancing faerie in golf shoes atop the pimple on a giant's ass, and the inanity of this thought made me laugh out loud.”

I am now a fan of Sam Sumac and I will be anxiously awaiting the release of more of his works. Even if this is his best, I cannot imagine any of the rest being bad. I am so glad someone found his works and bothered to assimilate the pages. They uncovered a treasure.

Reviewed by

I am a writer, editor, proofreader, and an avid reader.

Himalayan Blunder

About the author

The facts about Sam Sumac are hazy. Many details of his life have not been corroborated. He was born in Buffalo, NY. He joined the U.S. Army and fought in Vietnam as a Tunnel Rat. After the war, he suffered mental breakdowns, sold shoes, wrote sci-fi novels, and then vanished without a trace. view profile

Published on June 13, 2020

Published by Black Rose Writing

100000 words

Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by