Pinball Punks By Dave Anderson, 196 pgs.

Jan 31, 2018

I gotta say, when I found this in my reviews I thought it was either that I was being pandered to, or someone had finally written the novel where my two biggest interests intersect. But there was a chance it could be bad and I’d get irrationally upset at both pinball and punk simultaneously. At the end of the read, I think it’s a strange brew of all those possible outcomes, and I’m not totally sure where I landed when the dust settled.

Right off the bat I was swept into a world of rock’n’roll, politics, class war, veganism, and DIY ethics. The elevator pitch of this story is such: the U.S. president (who prefers to be called Mr. Awesome) is asking for the American people to help him solve the state of economic crisis and will award $100,000 to the citizen with the most viable plan. In steps our protagonist Mikey (bassist of the punk band Piss Rats) who suggests pinball as the way to save the nation. Because of the recent recession, there are many vacant factories and warehouses where Mikey means to create jobs by turning them into pinball manufacturers. From there the public can vote with their dollars, er quarters. Half the money will go to supporting the pinball production, and the other to schools, libraries, sports arenas, or whichever enterprise that positively affects society that they choose. Mr. Awesome and the band (who is mysteriously missing their singer Johnny) will go on tour, setting up rallies where the punks will demonstrate how pinball helps build tangible communities and gets people to look away from their phones long enough to make a human connection.

But once they hit the road, this story goes off the rails. Anarchists attack one of the rallies, the Piss Rats get a weird metal injected into their fingers after a late night bender with Mr. Awesome, and at every event they notice people are stumbling around as if they’re wasted after playing pinball. Is there some government conspiracy afoot? Are they a part of some confusing cover up? Is the man in bed with big pharma? The punks decide to coerce the truth out of the Commander in Chief with various illicit drugs and strippers in Las Vegas.

I’ll stop here lest I ruin the rest, though I will say that the Piss Rats really live up to their name by the end. Bat shit crazy plot lines aside, the book is extremely digestible and I finished it in less than a day. There are ever so many references to both punk bands and wildly popular pinball machines like Twilight Zone. Anderson even includes basic pinball history including its “prohibition” phase, and makes Mikey the fictional son of Roger Sharpe—aka the man who saved pinball. I love an inventive story, but some moments got too crude, and too far away from social economic politics solved by my favorite pastime.  –Kayla Greet (Self-published, East Falling)