DispatchDispatch by Bentley Little

Many of Bentley Little’s novels contain some element of high satire; in The Store, for example, he pokes fun at America’s obsession with more goods at continuously low prices, and at the willingness of various communities to sacrifice their character and local economies for the spurious good of a “Big Box Store”. In The Policy he takes a swipe at the pervasiveness of the insurance industry in our lives. And in Dispatch, his target is the person who cheats by continually writing letters of complaint and those whose sense of power outweighs their sense of right and wrong. In this book, the main character is a man whose correspondence not only gets him free French fries and passes to a local amusement park, but also influences global politics in good and bad ways.

Bentley Little’s books tend to follow a fairly predictable formula: people setting out to do something relatively normal and benign find that what they’re doing spins wildly out of control and is eventually revealed to be the work of powerful supernatural forces. In my opinion, his books often fall apart when the supernatural component is invoked; The Ignored would have been a much stronger book if he had not incorporated the supernatural elements at the end and simply let it be a book that investigates the nature of the individual in society; I think he would have sold more copies if nothing else. The same goes for The Store, which would have been a stronger and more provocative satire if the supernatural entities had not come into play.

In Dispatch, the same formula is used, but its effect is more powerful because the nature of the supernatural elements and their influence on the world is much more chilling (it does fall apart when the main character has his confrontation with The Big Bad at the end, because it’s ultimately revealed to be “just another monster”). Little successfully evokes the fear that the world may not be exactly what it seems because of the powers that manipulate it.

I would say that Dispatch is Little’s strongest book since The Ignored, which is itself definitely worth a read.

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