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EXISTENTIAL TERROR AND BREAKFAST

The best thing I ever hated.

By Rhythm, author of Touch

Jan 22, 2018: Full disclosure, this review was written as part of a swap.

Existential Terror and Breakfast is perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever had to review, and my reason for saying this is very simple: it affected me. Whether this is a good thing in terms of my own enjoyment remains to be seen, but it speaks volumes of Rev.Fitz’s skill as a writer.

The story follows the life and continued mental degradation of Malcolm Steadman, a somewhat philosophically inclined man with heavy depression and what appears at a glance to be a chronic case of severe anxiety. Throughout the titular breakfasts, along with a myriad of other scenes, we see different aspects of Malcolm’s character and the way that said character affects his interactions with those around him during his ongoing descent into genuine madness with some bouts of philosophy thrown in. As a premise, this is very interesting, and the writer manages to insert a number of little side bits such as a countdown to the next big plot event that help maintain interest.

The writing itself reminds me strongly of the ‘Hitchikers Guide’ books in tone. They share the whimsical style of narration, albeit while dealing with an altogether more melancholy subject matter. There are a number of lesser spelling errors, or more accurately, points where it seems that words have been auto-corrected to the incorrect word, but they are lesser concerns, and do not particularly impede the flow of the story. Another lesser concern is that the story focuses perhaps too much on its exploration of Malcolm as a character and, in the initial chapters, at the very least, could have benefited hugely from a greater variety of alternate character viewpoints.

Most of the above are positive traits, and I state them first because I want to make it clear that I consider the story well worth your time before I start going into why I personally did not enjoy it.

How do I put this? If anything, Rev.Fitz has constructed his central character too well. Malcolm is a man in quicksand, suffering a massive depression fueled in large part by the lack of change in his life, and his compounding psychological issues mean that he almost never takes any action to pull himself out of his situation. This is very true to life, as many people who have suffered such problems will tell you, proactivity is one of the hardest things to build in these cases, and the story it tells of a man drowning in his own mind is deeply compelling. But as someone who has suffered similar issues in the past, I found reading about someone succumbing to them deeply frustrating as I found myself almost violently disagreeing with every decision and choice that Malcolm makes, and the brief glimpses of light during which he actually does something to better himself only make it all the more agonizing when he relapses back into his default state. I will make no bones of saying that I genuinely dislike the main character here, but the fact that my dislike is so genuine speaks to a level of engagement with the story that I had not even noticed.

Essentially, it takes a lot of work and skill to make me hate something -or someone- this much. To be perfectly frank, since reading this story, I took up a daily regime of pushups just to prove wrong Malcolm’s unspoken belief that self improvement is an impossibilty. The writing is so good that I STARTED WORKING OUT TO SPITE A FICTIONAL CHARACTER.

The end question is whether I recommend it, and that is a hard one to answer. It is certainly good, despite its flaws, and both the structure and prose are solid, despite a slight lack of editing finesse. That being said, I struggle to recommend it, because I have a sneaking feeling that its impact will vary depending on the reader’s mental state. If you are sad, it may make it worse. If you are happy, you may find it funny. If you are like me, it may motivate you to do better in your life. Now, I have to go do pushups.

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