This irrepressible sci-fi debut from Canadian hipster and multi-media personality Faust is awash in enthusiasm and style, but suffers from narrative excess typical of the genre. The first hundred pages are dedicated to establishing the book's hero Hamza, and his best-friend and roommate Yehat. They are a pair of twentysomething slackers living in Edmonton, where they are drifting in limbo between their brilliant intellects and lack of prospects. A dishwasher at a yuppie restaurant, Hamza had been a brilliant writer whose downfall commenced with an academic scandal and unspecified romantic shipwreck that has left him emotionally crippled and unable to write. Yehat is a typical snooty video-store clerk who is unable to work as an engineer because he can't abide working with people who aren't as smart as him, which is basically everyone. But lest anyone get the wrong idea, they are a positive, up-tempo, creative duo who run a sort of ad-hoc pay-what-you-can summer camp for neighborhood kids. They are the "Coyote Kings."
The plot more or less starts rolling when Hamza meets, and is smitten by Sherem, a mysterious woman who has apparently been studying archeology for the last ten years and has just returned to Edmonton. It just so happens she likes all the right comic books, can quote Star Wars, is a pop culture twin of Hamza's, and just happens to be stunningly beautiful. Meanwhile, we are also shown how Hamza and Yehat's former childhood friends (and D&D gaming buddies) now operate an upscale imported furnishings boutique (Modeous Zokolo, ha ha ha), and are both chic and wealthy. Behind the scenes, it seems the Meaneys are somehow involved with an exceedingly potent drug called "Creme". The third group to enter the story is the gang that controls the creme trade in "E-Town", a comic-bookish set of flunkies called "The Fanboys" whose boss is Dulles Allen (ha ha again) a brutal and shrewd ex-CFL player turned club owner.
Once all the players are in place, it is revealed that the Meaneys and Allen are in a race to acquire an ancient artifact called a zodiascope, which, when used in conjunction with creme, will somehow enable the owner/user to control the world. At this point, the book starts descending into a disappointing mess of hocus-pocus involving ancient Egyptian mythology, and save-the-world tropes lifted from the most banal fantasy/sci-fi. Here, the D&D influence is regrettably in evidence, as some Norse stuff is mixed in, and Hamza and Yehat even end up in a tomb crawl. Faust spends so much time busting inside jokes for geeks and gamers, that when he tries to turn the plot in a serious direction, it doesn't work. The book unfolds in brief chapters written from the first-person perspective of various characters, many of whom have distinctive voices (Hamza's rat-a-tat freeflowing thoughts, Yehat's orderly lists and tangential asides, one of the Meaneys' superciliousness, Alpha-Cat's Caribbean patois, and so forth).
There are elements to like, such as the constant riffing on geek pop culture, or Faust's truly remarkable wordplay. In terms of style, the inventive prose has a lot to offer, and it comes as no surprise that he's a champion slam poet. The relationship between Hamza and Yehat is very nicely handled, as Faust captures all the ups and downs of a close friendship with precision, and isn't afraid to show the love between the two young men. The constant namechecking of Afropop legends is pretty cool, and it's does give a neat portrait of multicultural Edmonton. However, the overall sloppiness of the story and shaggy-dog plot makes it less than essential reading. It's also disappointing that for all the book's posturing about treating "sisters" with respect and all, love-interest Sherem is such a geek's fantasy (Star Wars quoter plus hot bod!). It kind of comes across a a dis -- if you're a girl with geek interests you have to be hot too, otherwise there's no room for you in our story! Anyway, if you've got the time and patience to wade through 500+ pages, you'll probably find something to like amidst all the chaos.