Review: Steve Lowe’s Muscle Memory

December 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm (Bizarro, Review, Writing)

It’s always a risky proposition: to take a well known trope (especially one that peaked in the films of the 80’s) and try to find a new way to spin it. In Muscle Memory, Steve Lowe takes his cue from movies like Freaky Friday and Like Father, Like Son, presenting a tale of bodies switched and swapped all over a small community. Using some clever writing however, Lowe transcends the typical structure of those stories and takes it to a whole new level of absurd and hilarious wonder.

Billy wakes one morning to the dog meowing at him, next to his own body (which happens to be dead) and inside the body of his wife. Soon, his best friend Tucker (who now inhabits the body of his own wife, Julia) and other friends and neighbors (including one poor fellow who’s now stuck inside a sheep, leading to some hilarious accusations about his personal life) set out to solve the problem.

A number of theories are put forward in the story, including everything from government conspiracies to alien interventions. In lesser hands, this might become nothing more than a farce, but Lowe creates depth for his characters. They are developed indeed, from the way they talk to the way they think and act. Steve Lowe has obviously spent some time around small town America, because he nails the little mannerisms, casual sexism and low speed drawl of the community, leading to a realistic and funny bunch of people. The protagonist, Billy, is especially interesting, with his everyman charm and his laid-back street smarts, it’s easy to find yourself hoping that he’ll make it through the chaos okay.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ending. Without spoiling anything, I have to commend Mr. Lowe on writing a bizarro book with a truly poignant and literary final moment. It feels like an earned ending, and is surprisingly powerful in the midst of a really silly sequence of events that lead the reader to it.  It’s fun to watch the madness unfold, and it never feels like Muscle Memory is piling on weirdness just “to be weird.” Everything moves the plot forward nicely up that final, “nailed it” moment.

This book is part of the New Bizarro Author Series, which exists to promote new authors of the weird. I would highly recommend Muscle Memory to anyone looking for a fun, quick and comfortable read. It’s a short book, which is unfortunate, as it seems like Lowe could have mined this setting and these characters for even more fun, but the bottom line is: This is good, solid writing from an author I know we’ll be seeing more of in the coming years. Buy it now so you can say “I bought his first book before everyone knew he was cool.” You won’t regret it!

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