the Little Red Reviewer

The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

Posted on: November 30, 2016

last-days-jack-sparksThe Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

published: September 2016

where I got it: received review copy (Thanks Orbit!!)

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks was the perfect brain candy book to be reading just before and just after the recent election. What I mean by “brain candy” is that this is the kind of book that gallops along at a breakneck pace and the reader is just along for the ride. You’re gonna have a lot of fun, you’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cringe, you might have a few deep thoughts right there at the end, but generally speaking this is not a think-y book. It’s a hand-to-mouth candy book. And it was exactly what I needed in those middle weeks of November when my facebook and twitter feeds were a shitshow.

Journalist and author Jack Sparks will do just about anything for attention. And the only thing bigger than his ego is his need to disprove the paranormal once and for all.  After a FastFood Nation-esque experiential documentary book called “Jack Sparks on Drugs”, he spent a few weeks in rehab and then decided his next project would be Jack Sparks disproves the supernatural. Ghosts, poltergeists, exorcisms, hauntings, spirits, and more,  Jack will prove they are all a sham. For the first half of this book, every time Jack talked (which was a LOT), I heard Anthony Bourdain’s voice.

Most of The Last Days of Jack Sparks are Jack’s drafts and notes for his novel. Recorded in his snarky and often disrespectful voice, Jack makes light of exorcisms, hauntings,  mediums, and basically everything he encounters.  The rest of this novel are e-mails between Jack’s estranged brother Alistair,  Jack’s roommate Rebecca, and a few other people.  Because, you see, the stories of what happened that fateful November don’t match up. Someone has their story either somewhat wrong, or very horribly wrong.

It all started with an Exorcism in Italy.  Told to quietly observe, instead Jack laughs in the face of a very serious priest and a very tortured teen girl.  Even Jack’s translator is spooked.   It’s all  a sham to Jack, who insists that all of these people, even the girl’s crying mother, are just fantastic actors. And then the Youtube video shows up on his Youtube account, a video he didn’t film or upload.  A dark basement,  a shaky cameraphone, whispered words, someone scared for their life.  Always one to get another 15 minutes of fame out of anything, Jack mobilizes his online followers to help figure out where the video was filmed, who filmed it, and what the hell is going on in it.  Before long, Jack is obsessed with the video.

Like I said, this book was pure candy to read. It was fun, fast, paced excellently, and kept my attention.  There’s also quite a bit of very subtle literary and story telling magic happening here. The more you realize you kinda like this asshole named Jack, the more you realize things that he’s saying aren’t exactly adding up. That maybe, just maybe, he might be an unreliable narrator because he only wants you to see the things that make him look good. What attention-obsessed celebrity ever wants their fans to see their pimples?  The closer I got to realizing what the hell was going on the worse I felt about ever thinking his voice sounded anything like Anthony Bourdain.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a thriller, and although it deals with topics that would typically show up in a horror novel, this is not a horror novel. I’m pretty lame when it comes to scary stuff, and nothing in this book scared me.  Because Jack isn’t afraid of anything, I wasn’t either.  Ok, well, there is one thing that Jack is afraid of, but it’s not something that the reader will be afraid of. So really, don’t let anyone tell you this is scary, or any kind of horror novel. Remember I mentioned story telling magic? Right around the three quarters mark of the book, you’ll figure out what the hell is really going on about 4 pages before Jack does. And it’s quite brilliant story telling sleight of hand actually, how Arnopp has been quietly building towards this sharp left turn for a while.   Since you attention was on Jack all this time, you never noticed what else was happening. If Jason Arnopp ever does a magician stage show, I want front row tickets.

I didn’t expect to like this book. The premise looked silly and vanilla.  I picked the book up on a lark, something brainless to read in the bathtub. The first few chapters I was mildly entertained and rather annoyed by Jack’s asshole personality, by the halfway point I was hooked, and I zipped through the last chunk like someone’s life depended on it.   Point being, if you like fast paced and smartly written psychological thrillers, give this one a try even if on the surface it looks dumb.

One night when I couldn’t sleep, I got out of bed around 4am and took the next 90 minutes or so to finish reading The Last Days of Jack Sparks. Right there are the end, there might have been a few tears salting my coffee. Maybe.

 

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7 Responses to "The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp"

I loved it. Brain candy or not:-D

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You say it’s candy, but as you describe it, it sounds like a mouthful of sawdust. Not for me, I guess.

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My god, I loved this book. Perfect mix of horror and humor for me. And I liked how even though you knew the book was going to end with him dying (it’s the main premise after all) it still managed to surprise me.

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“The closer I got to realizing what the hell was going on the worse I felt about ever thinking his voice sounded anything like Anthony Bourdain.”

Your review made me laugh, so I know I’m going to like this book! I think that humor/horror combo sounds a little bit like John Dies at the End. Not in plot, but in tone, maybe?

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I have bought this one – just not had the time yet. If it’s such a quick read though I best get on it eh!
Lynn 😀

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once you hit the halfway point, you won’t be able to put the book down!

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cool – can’t wait.

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