LASER HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE by David W. Barbee
The novel begins with the sentence, “Lasers are everywhere.” It’s a fitting start to a book that positively glows in your hand with every color of the spectrum, a light show that fuels this fast, addictive read. While at the same time, the novel provides apt social commentary, strong characterization, and an abundance of subtle humor that earned numerous guffaws from me as I read.
Brian Keene labeled David W. Barbee as a “genre of one.” And though I am somewhat new to his work, I have seen nothing but proof of this. He is like no other bizarro author I’ve read.
This delightful romp starts in a world that is an amalgam of so many genres, most prominently a mix of cyberpunk and western. Jeph—known in his heyday by the nom de guerre “Sexy Jeph”—was one of the most dangerous men alive. Now he has settled with his husband in a house on the fiber optic prairie. This bucolic life is upended when an old friend forces him into one final robbery. The object: the immensely powerful “Red Orb.”
At first, the story seems to follow the played out “one last heist” trope, but develops into something new and unique. This new ground is where the story shines. He accomplishes this through remarkable, thorough worldbuilding, borrowing from a multitude of genres while crafting his own original concepts.
This starts in Obscuria, a city in another dimension where the Red Orb is supposedly held. It is here that the story becomes true bizarro—as creative and bizarre as bizarro can be. The city is one of the most vivid settings I’ve read. I felt as if I were there and could see, smell, hear, touch, and taste this frenetic, flashing city.
Obscuria is a nerd utopia, populated by geeks of every variety. Full of camp, its inhabitants are forever in cosplay and value trivia beyond all else. It serves as a metaphor, I feel, for society’s growing obsession with leisure. In a way, Obscuria provides a glimpse into our future. A couple decades ago, geek culture was a small niche. Now with the rise of comic book movies and video games, that niche has grown into popular culture. The obsessions of Obscuria seem the next logical step.
At times, Barbee dwells too much on description—at least for my taste—the exception being the beautiful pictures he paints of Obscuria. The body count in this novel is ridiculous, but the gore is limited and mostly tasteful.
I gobbled up this story. And if you’re looking for something new and out there, full of laughs, heart, and a wickedly addicting storyline, this book is for you.
You can find Laser House on the Prairie on Amazon here.