The Shell Game by Steve Alten -- A Book Review from "Publishing Short Scary Stories"
I’m making an exception for Steve Alten’s Shell Game.
The Shell Game Cover
First a full disclosure. Steve Alten is one of my favorite writers. In the last ten years he’s produced a veritable lifetime supply of New York Times bestsellers. Meg, Domain, The Trench, Goliath and more—thrillers best accompanied with smoke detectors, Steve’s pages turn so fast . . .
Here is the skinny on Steve Alten’s Shell Game. I finished the book last Friday, and as far as it lingering with me, well, I’m still wearing a Depends undergarment. Good golly, this book is scary!
Shell Game reads as Babel and Traffic watches—documentary-like—bounding agilely through disparate but ever-converging scenes, with Alten handing thematic directorial duties to Conspiracy Theory’s seemingly paranoid character JERRY FLETCHER: The truth will set you free, Alice!
Steve Alten asks a simple question, “What if the world were about to run out of crude oil?”. . .
Alten reports that he’s catching some serious heck for writing this book. While Shell Game does not quite rise to the fury and sensation of old-time banned books, one has to wonder why he got so many cold shoulders when he shopped the work. Here is a bestselling author, huge fan base and an interesting what-if, and the big pub houses ran from him as if he had a contagious rash on his lip. One has to wonder.
Is his premise that disturbing? Is hidden in all that fiction a truth? A terrible truth? One that people would rather not think about too much? Maybe . . .
I’d console Steve by reminding him of a fellow named Twain, the father of American literature, who likewise penned a disturbing book entitled The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—a book recently described by PBS as “celebrated, censored, revered and reviled.” Twain wrote the first racial truth in America, a truth as highly unpopular then as racially profane today, but a truth that established the tiniest, most precarious, seminal purchase for the very civil rights movement that may give us this year our first woman or African American president.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing Alten to Twain; I’m comparing celebrated, censored, revered and reviled—the four red badges of courageous writing.
David Letterman once quipped regarding a flood of complaints from offended viewers, “These are jokes, folks. We make them up.”
However, we all know there is more to it than that. Truth is truth no matter how it arrives: wrapped inside a late night comedian’s jest, metaphorically poetized from the pulpit, found in a book about a runaway boy and a friend named Jim . . .
What if Steve Alten is telling us an urgent truth? … oh hell, just reread paragraph ten. Watch the trailer below for Shell Game, and then just buy this book, that is, if you’ve still got the nerve. [Note to Reader: Amazon also sells Depends.]
Shell Game Movie Trailer, A Novel by Steve Alten.