Life in a Fishbowl – Len Vlahos

Wasn’t sure about this one. It’s a novel where one of the main characters, Glio, is an anthromorphised (whatever that means) high grade glioblastoma (thus the name) multiforme. In layman’s terms, a brain tumor. He’s (?) feasting on Jackie’s dad’s memories, eradicating them as he goes. Nope, it didn’t seem my cup of tea at all reading the back cover blurb. But, as my Katie recommended it – and she’s usually correct when it comes to what I will and won’t like in YA, I gave it a go. In the end I didn’t find ‘Life in a Fishbowl’ either ‘acidly funny’ or ‘heart-breakingly sad’ as said blurb promised I would, but my beautiful writerly daughter was right again. I did enjoy it, was through it in no time (for me) and that’s a sign of a good read.

And I’d like to say that I am quite jealous of this tome’s author. It’s not for being an American (he’s from Colorado actually) these days. Certainly not, but Vlahos not only has won kudos as an up-and-coming wordsmith for late teens, he runs a bookstore to boot – these are the bits that turn me green! Perhaps that’ll be how I’ll come back.

Now a review of ‘Life in a Fishbowl’ would seemingly give a great platform to rail and fume against the dire state of our respective nation’s reliance on the reality genre for much commercial television network programing. It requires the viewing public to become hooked on the humiliation, misery, stupidity or simply the lack of decency in others. It’s cheap and can be nasty. But I’ve riffed on that theme more than enough in recent times. In this book an unscrupulous tele-exec, Ethan, is at the centre, turning Jared Stone (Jackie’s father) and his final cancer-ridden days into television fodder for the masses in the most reprehensible manner. Jared, his mind unable to work too far into the implications of his decision to cooperate, does it to give his loved ones future security. Said family members reluctantly sign on too – they soon wished they hadn’t. Feisty Jackie immediately proves herself more than a match for the odious Ethan – he, for a time, bathing in the glory of producing America’s top rating show. But we all know he is going to come a cropper. In causing this, Jackie’s assisted by a Russian nerdy whiz-kid who soon transforms her into a darling of social media.

One review I read reckoned Glio was the character in this that ‘...shines through most vividly’ as he provides the family’s back-story whilst chomping away on the memories Jared treasures the most. To me this device was so far beyond reality I found it mostly annoying, but not to the degree it detracted from an otherwise engaging tale. There’s much to recommend Vlahos’ effort here, not-the-least of which is that it gets us pondering on the dilemma of assisted death. This is an issue our nation is well behind the eight ball on compared to other more humane and compassionate societies. Books like ‘Life in a Fishbowl’ could help direct change.

The penny dropped for author Len V, struggling to write a novel for his own generation, when his wife asked why his obviously very worthy YA manuscript had a forty year old main protagonist. His re-drafting of it produced ‘The Scar Days’ and its follow-up ‘Scar Girl’. For his next publication, working on how Trump has divided the US, he’s re-inventing the Civil War, moving it to the near future where the coastal states battle it out against Middle America – the east and west littorals voted Hilary, the centre the Trumpster. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen in reality as Donald seems intent in causing enough mayhem elsewhere in the world.

The author’s website – http://www.lenvlahos.com/

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