On "Ghosts/Aliens": "THE BEST BOOK OF ALL TIME! (EVEN BETTER THAN THE BIBLE!)." So writes one soldier from Baghdad, Iraq in his customer review. Although I wouldn't go so far, it got me thinking. With all the death and horrors of war around me, if I were in his place, it would take a freakishly exceptional writer to keep me in stitches. And if any book could do it, it would be this one. In a new feature we'll call The Literary Bucket List, we'll review books you should read before you die, particularly if your death is imminent and you want to die laughing, informed, happy, comforted, or all of the above. The first book to fall under this heading is...
Trey Hamburger's "Ghosts/Aliens"
The book, released Nov. 4, 2008, is from the same author who wrote the 2004 cult hit Real Ultimate Power, wherein he obsessed with all things ninja. He writes in the original web page that spawned it all:
"Ninjas are sooooooooooo sweet that I want to crap my pants. I can't believe it sometimes, but I feel it inside my heart. These guys are totally awesome and that's a fact. Ninjas are fast, smooth, cool, strong, powerful, and sweet. I can't wait to start yoga next year. I love ninjas with all of my body (including my pee pee)."
Four years later, Hamburger has truly matured since his last book. In his week-long, earnest investigation of the paranormal, Hamburger seems quite open to the prospect of criticism and debate, and notes in his letter to the scientific community:
"A lot of intellectuals might be scoffing right now. That's fine. I totally respect that, and you can eat a dick..."
In reading this comic masterpiece, the skeptical Michael Shermers of planet Earth might find a worthwhile occupation besides professional condescension/scientific irrelevance. That's if they can appreciate satire. Speaking of which, I hate Shermer. That dude is an ass. Disproving the unknown, if it were at all possible, is no substitute for scientific discovery and innovation. Predictable knee-jerk skeptics only encourage the most unflattering conformity. Like a donkey schlong conforms to the contours of his mouth, Shermer conforms perfectly with the common mold of smug mediocrity.
But I digress.
On a deeper level, the book offers some subtle social commentary on the childish absurdity of xenophobia and plays it out through the actions of two boys, protagonists Trey Hamburger and Mike Stevens. For example, a new Indian neighbor is suspected of being a space alien or a hybrid of one, simply because he is different. The evidence? Trey claims that the last time anyone saw the Indian dude he was in a botanical garden, "grubbing for roots- which doesn't fit any known pattern of Indian behavior." Was he collecting samples for his alien superiors? Is the fact he doesn't have a favorite song further evidence he is not from earth? In another example, while describing a battle with a "truckload of Mexicans" it's clear that Mike and Trey can't tell the difference between illegal aliens and space aliens, and so attack both with the most advanced weapons at their disposal; such as magnets, flour, sticks, and herbs. Trey also suggests in his notes that one should use ice when dealing with alien "shape-shifters".
In their quest to find out the truth about ghosts and aliens, Trey writes to actual professors, scientists, and pastry companies. Some reply cordially, some do not. Some of the letters are grant proposals to fund his paranormal studies and are sent to completely irrelevant recipients; such as the Forest Conservation Society of America and the National Neck and Spine Research Association. The one closest to actual relevance is sent to NASA, and that one is a request to include his name in the "application tub of future fighter pilots against a UFO invasion", and he suggests if they don't have one, he'd like to start one with his friend Mike Stevens, with a special focus on planes with high-energy laser canons and "guys who don't give a crap".
The scientists and professors who fall for the letters and actually reply are among the crown jewels of the book, as are Trey's angry replies to the inevitable rejections.
Kind reader, your reviewer does not laugh easily. He has been through hell and has seen man descend to a level of depravity, hate, and selfishness that to call earth's leaders little more than blind gluttons and architects of genocide seems gentle chiding. That's right. You know what I'm talking about.
I have seen Celine Dion's cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long."
But despite the heavy fog of inhumanity that blackened my skies for weeks after that atrocity, this book had me laughing hard. Really hard.
The most appealing aspect of Hamburger's work is his knack for bringing us back to that time in our youth where anything was possible, and in this case, to those awkward moments of male puberty all men can relate to and all women can laugh at.
Thus, Ghosts/Aliens must be included in The Literary Bucket List, a book you must read before you die.
Make sure to check out Trey's MySpace page.