Cover of Intentional Dissonance. Almost all white cover with the outline of a falling man and a standing woman

About the Book

Title: Intentional Dissonance
Published: 2012

Cover Story: I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!
Drinking Buddy: Bottle of Morose, With a Depression Chaser
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, drug use)
Talky Talk: What the Hell Did I Just Read?
Bonus Factors: Crazy Sidekicks, Hubris of Man, We’re Not Getting Out of This Alive
Bromance Status: The Reader Doesn’t Exist!

Cover Story: I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!

I guess you have to be a child of the early 90s to get that one. This is a very sparse cover. And it reflects the bleak, hopeless content of the book perfectly. But it’s not exactly something that’s going to grab the ol’ readers.

The Deal:

So Jon lives in the last city on earth, which is kind of a bummer, when you think about it. Years earlier, the entire world was destroyed by an army of…something. Some people saw wolves, others saw monsters, still others saw enemy soldiers. Whatever happened, most of the world’s population was wiped out. All that’s left is one city, with a chronically happy population, thanks to the drugs the dictatorial government dumps in the water supply. The stupefied citizens wander the bleak landscape, haunted by the remains of what civilization once was. Half-human monstrosities roam the streets, demanding voting rights and working as nightclub bouncers. Malfunctioning teleporters constantly replay the same moments of people trapped in endless loops. Weirdly-costumed ‘Peace Agents’ routinely interrogate and arrest anyone who’s not happy.

Jon ekes out a sad existence as a magician, hopelessly addicted to designer drugs provided by his only friend, Emily. He recalls his teenage days, when his father was still alive, and when he first met Michelle, his perfect girlfriend, who has stood by him all these years.

And then, of course, he’s arrested. The mad doctor in charge tells him some horrible truths. For instance, did his father have something to do with The End? And perhaps Jon has the same horrible powers. And what about Michelle…isn’t she just a little too good to be true? Isn’t she a LOT too good to be true?

Drinking Buddy: Morose, with a Depression Chaser

Two pints of beer cheersing

In Jon’s world, happiness is mandatory.  Citizens are encouraged to report anyone who’s not happy to the authorities for adjustment. Other emotions have become so rare, they are now available in chemical form.

Jon is addicted to sadness. He can’t live without his daily fix. Unhappiness has become a designer drug, with lots of subtle variations. There’s the sadness you get when your dog dies. The sadness you felt that day when Daddy left forever. The misery you experience when you wake up and realize you’ve squandered your talents. And, for the hard core users, the dreaded ‘We need to talk.’

Jon is hopelessly depressed, but in a ‘life is absurd, let’s laugh at the situation’ kind of way. And he talks directly to the reader, which made me feel like he was in the room with me. Which was kind of unsettling, really.

Testosterone Level: One Death is a Tragedy, A Million Deaths is a Statistic

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence, drug use)

There is a lot of torture, high-speed mechanical horse chases, drug use, mobsters, PTSD flashbacks, and awkward teen dating encounters. Pretty much no sex, though. This is a short book, and it takes a while to get off the ground, but once it does, it doesn’t let up.

There’s also a lot of weird little asides about depressing things that have happened over the years, and the last page is one of those dot patters that you stare at and it makes a 3D picture. I guess. I can never get those damn things to work.

Bonus Factor: Crazy Sidekicks

Black and white headshot of Doc Savage, wtih his five aides standing behind him

So Jon busts out of prison with the help of Edward, who is half-tree, and therefore is enormously powerful and can regenerate; and One Eye, a mute assassin who is covered in black cloth except for, you know, one eye.

And we’re just kind of supposed to accept that. It had something to do with The End catastrophe. Or something. The one time Edward is going to explain how he became a tree (or why he was born that way), it turns out to be a ruse to distract the guards.

In another book, I’d call it lazy writing. But Intentional Dissonance is the literary equivalent of a two-day bender, so I just kind of started to roll with the punches.

If my friend was a tree, I’d make his life hell with racially insensitive jokes.

“Hey, Ed, if you fell in the forest and no one was around, would you make a sound?”

Bonus Factor: Hubris of Man

Black and white photo of atomic detonation at Bikini Atoll

So the scientists are all like ‘Jon, you have to help us end the world,’ and Jon’s like ‘No way man,’ and then they’re all like ‘But you have to, cuz it’s like for the good of humanity,’ and he’s all ‘I ain’t your trained monkey, fascist!’

This was a really, really weird book.

Bonus Factor: What the Hell Did I Just Read?

Seriously. I can’t fully describe this book in a blog post. I can only fully relate this reading experience via interpretive dance. Watch this space.

Bromance Status: The Reader Doesn’t Exist!

This book made me doubt my own sanity and the very existence of the universe as I know it. But raging madness is a small price to pay for this quick, enjoyable little read.

FTC Full Disclosure: Got this for free from Central Avenue Publishing, which sounds like some kind of front for the Mafia.


Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.