Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux was one of my favorite Chinese travelogues ever. After reading that book, I instantly loved the guy. Reading the dust-jacket and blurbs on O-Zone got me so excited that I literally saved it for a rainy day. The thought of a post-apocalyptic age through the eyes of a world-traveling author? Fantastic! After reading about 70 pages of the novel, however, I was so thoroughly annoyed that I finally put the book down and doubted all those other Theroux fiction purchases I’d recently made.
One of the key figures, Fisher, whose role in the plot is to sound brash and annoying, is so unbearably good at his job that I had to skip through every paragraph in which he opened his filthy, teenage mouth. The gratuitous speech by nearly all characters about their sex and private lives also got on my nerves, and once I mixed that fault with the horribly ’80s feel to the Sci-fi technology, I felt justified in laying the book down.
While some might consider O-Zone to be Paul Theroux’s seminal work of fiction for its very clear-cut treatment of the full gamut of his societal banners (i.e. the shames of Third World nations, the sins of industrialized nations, and the plights of immigrants and refugees), I choose to remain satisfied simply with his ‘train-velogues’ and whatever lessons he wants to throw my way inside them. Long and unnecessarily gratuitous fiction is a ship that’s sailed for me, and I’m not terrible disappointed in that fact.