Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zombie Spotlight on Tonia Brown

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Undead gnomes! Sex! Violence! Sexy Violence!

Pack up your dice and character sheets and join us for the release of the goriest, goofiest, gnomeiest novel to ever hit your Kindle.Gnomaggeddon has all of the elements of a traditional fantasy with just enough filthy humor and bloody conquest to make you want to wash your hands when you're done reading it.

Malgaria is a land of wonder, beauty and enchantment, as well as loads and loads of undead gnomes. Thanks to a widespread plague that is turning not only the little folks of the land into undead monsters, but everyone they come in contact with, no race is safe and Malgaria needs a hero fast. With none in sight, Betty the elf and her team of adventuring miscreants are talked into taking the job. This ragtag crew struggles to find the cause of the plague only to uncover the truth about magic's biggest secret ... the unholy world of science!

Author Tonia Brown

Tonia Brown is an avid role player and dice chucker. She lives in the backwoods of North Carolina with her genius husband and an ever fluctuating number of cats. She likes fudgesicles and coffee, though not always together. When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut.

The use of irony is what makes Gnomageddon by Tonia Brown work as well as it does. Perhaps we should begin with a definition of irony, as I understand its use in the literature of satire and dark humor. For this we turn to Soren Kierkegaard. In his work, On the Concept of Irony, he asserts that irony is employed to gather the truth via a form of dialogue that weeds out falsehoods, or fallacies, until all that is left is the truth. In essence, this method in stories and plays is called Socratic Method or “dramatic irony”.  

Dramatic irony:

A plot device according to which (a) the spectators know more than the protagonist; (b) the character reacts in a way contrary to that which is appropriate or wise; (c) characters or situations are compared or contrasted for ironic effects, such as parody; or (d) there is a marked contrast between what the character understands about his acts and what the play demonstrates about them.

A disparity of awareness between actor and observer: when words and actions possess significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not; for example when a character says to another "I'll see you tomorrow!" when the audience (but not the character) knows that the character will die before morning. It is most often used when the author causes a character to speak or act erroneously, out of ignorance of some portion of the truth of which the audience is aware (Wiki). 

Employing dramatic irony, Tonia Brown removes layers of fiction within fiction. What we have here is a fantasy story of gnomes and a story of a zombie apocalypse, science vs. magic, and seriousness vs. parody. This is a popular concept in literature today called a mash-up, combining two diverse forms to create a new third form, in essence, the ironic drama. The structure of the story is serious, but the dialogue and names are non-serious. Even the illustrations by Denise Lhamon lend themselves to an ironic form, mimetic of the role-playing games which often employ such magical characters or avatars in fantasy settings.

The book title is a mash-up of gnome and Armageddon; it is called a “Horrible” Fantasy, a play on words, the narrator referring to the book as “bad” (the meaning of horrible) rather than the grammatically proper “horrific”, which means scary. So, right out of the starting gate, our narrator becomes questionable, much like the narrator in Greek comedies who often stepped out of character to comment on the play at hand, a device called parabasis (think Bob Hope when he addresses the movie audience about something happening during the movie). The names of the main characters are ribald, as in Chaucer’s stories or in Restoration Comedy (think Lady Wishfort—wish for it [sex]—from the play, “Way of the World” [1700] by William Congreve). My favorite from Gnome is “Thimblecock Dickerstock”; I don’t think I have to explain this one.

The quest revolves around the “Cave of Tits”, (as do most male quests), but Tonia makes the journey more literal (I don’t think I have to explain what a cave is symbolic for, right?). Half the fun is watching the characters keep a straight face during these proceedings or when using these outrageous names. That’s what makes this form of irony work so well: The jokes bounce off the straight-up story (think Airplane! [1980]); for that matter, Gnomageddon is the Airplane! of Zombie novels. And just as the parody movie mocked our fear of flying through puns, sight gags, non sequiturs, and litotes, Gnomageddon pokes fun at our fanaticism with role playing games, fantasy novels, and our love of zombie apocalypses using the same tools of irony.

Tonia Brown sent me a PM, “I hope Gnomaggedon didn't make you think too much. It was really just supposed to make ya laugh.” And laugh I did. But what I've written about is how it was funny, how the use of irony makes me chuckle and guffaw. Had Kierkegaard read the book, even he would have definitely slapped his knee raw. A mash-up of Epic proportions, Gnomaggedon is a must-read for fans of all genres, but zombie freaks and RPG geeks will love it all the more.

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