Reading Jack and the Jungle Lion is like being on a Hollywood movie set watching the making of a silent film. How Jared creates that feeling of being in on the action without quite being of it, defies analysis. Best sit back and enjoy the ride.
Everything is simultaneously real and unreal–the jungle, the headhunters, the melodramatic romance between a film star and a spunky common girl. The girl’s at the stake, the poison arrows are flying. How will they get out? Suspense reigns. Jack Hunter is called upon to live up to his movie-man namesake of Action Jack in real life. Can he do it? Looks doubtful.
Ensuing scenes involve a hilarious food fight and an attack on that poor common girl from the jungle by Jack’s acid-tongued wife, who displays a temperament more vicious than any headhunter’s. Boy gets girl after a long, hard chase. Boy loses girl. Will he get her back? It wouldn’t be Hollywood without a Hollywood ending, and thanks to the kids–oh, did I fail to mention the kids? Yeah, the movie has them, too–anyway, thanks to the kids, we reach the (thank goodness) inevitable conclusion. Finding out how we get from crisis to salvation is more fun than a barrel of white-faced capuchin monkeys. Oh, did I fail to mention there’s one of those, too? Probably a lot of things I failed to mention. Read it and find them for yours.
G. Kent opens Bandits on the Rim like gangbusters. A cadillac barrels through the front wall of a convenience store and slams our narrator, Garret Kay, through the glass doors of a freezer cabinet pinning him among broken glass and ice cream. What exactly happens for the next 180-plus pages is in many ways open for discussion, and I recommend that you expand your tolerance for chaos when you take the book on.
Is Garrett in the hospital or out of it? Is he roommates with a cop who shot himself, or does the copy exist at all? Is Julie Christie his nurse, or is it a nurse who looks like Julie Christie or does Garrett just think she does? Is he on morphine or cocaine or chardonnay (an odd beverage of choice for a carouser, but maybe that’s the point.)?
Garrett is a hiker and a rock climber. A rock climber who cuts lines of coke after ascending Half-Dome. His drug-fueled fantasies (Or are the fantasies emanations from his unconscious mind while he lies comatose under the Cadillac’s grill?) formulate a specter in a long overcoat with a shotgun under it. The man/specter intends to kill or destroy him. Or maybe just beat him in a race. There’s a search for a lost gold mine and a connection between the specter and Kay’s recently-deceased grandfather. Butterscotch, or at least the smell of it, figures prominently.
Much of Bandits on the Rim–a true Zane Grey sort of title, and the book does have wild west overtones–is irreverent, funny–even if the humor is occasionally a bit forced–and the recurring characters and language and situations keep the action moving and will keep most readers paying attention, even when they don’t really know where they are or what’s happening.
Though I enjoyed a lot of the book, I ended up puzzled by what it was all about. Revealing the ending would ruin it for someone who hasn’t read it, but–and it’s probably just me missing something or being the wrong audience or something–the dreamscape wasn’t enough in and of itself to hold it all together for me. Kent has a lot of talent, writes cleverly, creates fine characters, but I simply didn’t find the “there.”