Patton Oswalt – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: The Audiobook Patton Oswalt – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: The Audiobook

Patton Oswalt - Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: The Audiobook

Patton Oswalt is many people. To some he is Spencer from King Of Queens. To others he is the voice of Remy the Rat in Ratatouille. But to a growing majority, he is a brilliant comedian with credibility running deep within the indie world and ever growing geek universe .  His third comedy album, Werewolves And Lollipops was released by Subpop records which led to critical praise by other indie rock review sites. Oswalt’s career and DIY attitude towards comedy is more than enough reason for this review — that, and I really wanted to read his new book.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is the first book by the would-be novelist.  Oswalt mentions throughout his book his dreams of becoming a science fiction novelist. Perhaps, he can settle for something in the middle. Writing jokes and developing a novel possess the same basic principals. At its core are a collection of characters, scenarios and crafted dialogue all intended to engage an audience. Where it differs obviously makes up the rest as tone, length and artistic distinction are all historically different. For this review, I’ve decided to listen to the audiobook. Since Oswalt is comfortable with his own voice, his narration throughout the book allows listeners to hear his emphasis, side dialogue and most importantly; silly voices. I could also listen to it in the car and while walking –something books have failed to allow me to do.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is a series of essays, stories and comedic bits read by the author. What Oswalt triumphs at is storytelling.  Those familiar with his stand-up are privy to the running gag of growing up in a small northern Virginia suburb. This comedic bit goes deeper as it is set against the backdrop of the mid 80’s hardcore renaissance 15 minutes away in Washington DC. Most of Oswalt’s stories center around him finding his way, culturally and artistically in a stale and mediocre existence; unknowingly minutes away from a scene which would later be recognized for its vast cultural merit. “Ticket Booth” involves the author’s short tenure as a movie usher in a strip mall cinema complex. The story oscillates between quirky characters and the eventual epiphany which would come through REM’s Fables Of The Reconstruction and Phillip K. Dick’s “The Man In The High Castle.”  The audio book comes with the addition of Michael Stipe reading his own lyrics which would later inspire Oswalt to a life of continual discovery and travel. There are also drunk teenagers, throwing stars and an assistant manager that lives in the boiler room. All of the stories work on some level for Oslwat. Whether or not it is a dysfunctional family seen through the eyes of 10 year old during a snow day or the mental decay of an immediate family member, Wasteland manages to engage the audience and replace punch lines with drama, sorrow and slow triumph.

What Oswalt fails at is his conclusions. Comedic conclusions rarely hold more weight than it is necessary to carry the audience through a laugh. George Carlin’s solutions for social ills might entice a chuckle but would rarely be useful at fixing the world. Some of Oswalt’s biggest disappointments are his attempt to synthesize comedy, cultural references and memorable conclusions in a philosophical dawning. The title chapter; Zombie Spaceship Wasteland attempts to characterize personality types by the different subgenres of science fiction. Not only is the chapter confusing, it fails to make sense or progress the book any further. This is also infuriating since it is sandwiched by two more emotionally engaging chapters.

The DIY aesthetic, which is interwoven throughout endless musical genres, is presented in this book as the spine for standup comedy. The longest chapter in the book, “The Victory Tour” illuminates a multi-day comedy gig in Vancouver, Canada. Anyone in a band or familiar with the musical pursuit can find solace in a story involving the tireless pursuit for art and recognition over morons who stand in your way. While the story involves a crazed axe murderer, the crux of Oswalt’s chapter rests in unwavering optimism in the face of cynicism, doubt and drug addled managers.

As a break between the drama are smaller chapters dedicated to nothing else than humor in written form. “Punch Up Notes” illustrates an absurd romantic comedy told from the perspective of a producer’s reading changes to writers. “Wines By The Glass” pokes fun at connoisseurship with descriptive language and escalating insanity.  These small bits are hilarious, to the point and above all else — short. Oswalt does not achieve his dreams of a unified novel rather a uneven book filled with frank narration, humorous scenarios and unsellable discourses. Perhaps Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is the middle step between comedy and a literary novel. It is enjoyable to read or even listen to while walking or stuck in traffic. Its low-points merely fit with the book’s aesthetic of trying new things and poking fun at those same things when they fail.

Patton Oswalt - Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: The Audiobook, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2011-02-03T12:46:28-08:00 rating 3.9 out of 5

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