Travis' Book Review: Crap Kingdom by D. C. Pierson
Tom Parking is an ordinary teenage guy. He goes to school, hangs out with friends, eats dinner, does his homework, and goes to bed. Rinse and repeat. For Tom, though, his regular, happy life is just a bit too perfect. Kids like Tom are never destined to be the “Chosen One” for some magical kingdom. That role is typically reserved for the kids that spend their home-life locked in a closet. At least that’s what Tom thinks until he meets Gark, a strange man sent to reveal Tom’s true destiny – but not until after Gark kidnaps him, forces him into a clothing donation box in front of K-mart, and nearly sets him on fire with a flame spell. To Gark’s credit, the donation box is actually a portal into a magical kingdom. Unfortunately for Tom, the magical kingdom is a nameless land of garbage and despair, where the locals recently discovered the wonders of clothing, live in Earth’s garbage, and have native magic that consists of making people smell farts. Tom holds hope that there may be more to this kingdom, but after learning that the king’s job is simply to keep his subjects in a constant state of pessimism, since tomorrow can’t possibly be better than today, Tom loses hope. He doesn’t think he wants to be the Chosen One of the land he calls “Crap Kingdom.” So, the kingdom chooses his best friend, Kyle, instead. When Tom gets jealous of his friend’s positive efforts and gets banned from the kingdom, he realizes he threw away the chance of a lifetime.
Crap Kingdom is filled with laugh out loud moments, mostly because of the way Pierson puts Tom into a number of very relatable (and often awkward) situations. Pierson does a nice job incorporating a realistic adolescent male experience into a fantasy novel. As a guy, and an avid fantasy reader, it’s nice to be able to relate to a male protagonist. Tom isn’t simply tossed into some struggle in a magical kingdom; he fumbles with schoolwork, his crush, jealousy over his best friend, and the moral consequences of his choice. It’s also a genuinely fun spin on the high fantasy clichés. The problem is that the book starts off really slow. The majority of the novel is exposition, and the antagonists are only mentioned in passing until they show up in the last quarter of the novel. Like Tom, the reader doesn’t actually realize what the protagonist’s purpose actually is. Tom’s struggle is with his personal life, not with some dark lord or evil empire – at least not until the end of the book. It’s also a fresh concept to write a fantasy novel about the real-world problems, and Pierson still manages to create a very imaginative universe filled with fantastic elements. It just happens that those elements consist of mustache-wearing princesses, drinking from toilets, and working the nostril probes in the rat-snottery.
As fresh and funny as the novel is, however, it’s still not as funny as I initially hoped. Maybe, like Tom seeing the nameless kingdom for the first time, I went into the book with my hopes a bit too high, excited by the positive reviews from some of my favorite stand-up comedians on the back cover. It’s still funny, though, and the payoff is worth it in the end. The novel shows the Pierson has the capacity to write realistic experiences in a humorous manner, as well as imaginative fantasy and well-organized action sequences. Fortunately, the novel is both short and enjoyable enough to merit reading. I would recommend this book to teenage guys and fantasy fans looking for a fun spoof of the average fantasy read.