Good morning all,
Today, let’s review a size-themed science-fiction novel!
“Enormity” was released at the beginning of 2012 and was written by W. G. Marshall (better known as Walter Greatshell). Enormity appears to be his only novel using the nom de plume W. G. Marshall. Other books written by Walter Greatshell include “Mad Skills,” “Terminal Island,” and “XOMBIES: Apocalypse Blues.” His primary focus seems to be on the “Xombies” series of books, of which he wrote three. The “X” in Xombies refers to the fact that the “Agent X” plague in his stories initially targets women; ergo, those humans with two of the same sex chromosome, XX. (NOTE: Those interested can check out the author’s web site here.)
I previously mentioned Enormity in the comments section of the ZZZ Comics Top 5 and Bottom 5 Illustrated Series review. I read this book many years ago and remembered the basic narrative, but had forgotten the title. Thanks to Aphrodite’s assistance, I remembered the book’s title and then picked up a used copy on eBay.
The plot, according to the back cover, is as follows:
Enormity is the strange tale of an American working in Korea, a lonely young man named Manny Lopes, who is not only physically small (in his own words, he’s a “Creole shrimp”), but his work, his failed marriage, his race, all conspire to make him feel puny and insignificant-the proverbial ninety-eight-pound weakling.
Then one day an accident happens, a quantum explosion, and suddenly Manny awakens to discover that he is big-really big. In fact, Manny is enormous, a mile-high colossus! Now there’s no stopping him: he’s a one-man weapon of mass destruction. Yet he means well.
Enormity takes some odd turns, featuring characters like surfing gangbangers, elderly terrorists, and a North Korean assassin who thinks she’s Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. There’s also sex, violence, and action galore, with the army throwing everything it has against the rampaging colossus that is Manny Lopes. But there’s only one weapon that has any chance at all of stopping him: his wife.
That is a fairly accurate summation; although, the last bit about his wife being the only weapon that has any chance of stopping him is misleading. There is a brief message from her which causes him to momentarily stop moving, and then something significant happens. But that’s it. Manny’s wife is not a major character. Furthermore, the government did not need her to draft the message. It was so brief that they could have just lied and said it was from his wife. There was no way for Manny to verify who actually wrote the message and it did not contain any personal details that only she would know.
The best part of this book was the early chapters in which the U.S. and South Korean military investigate the initial incident during which Manny became a mile-high giant. (NOTE: Technically, he stood somewhere around 6,000 feet. So, even more than a mile tall!)
Of note, this is certainly not a gentle tale. Along with Manny himself, a whole host of micro-organisms which lived on or in his body were also enlarged. Thus, normally harmless bacteria, fungi, and mites become lethal predators wrecking gory damage upon scores of innocent bystanders. Also in the doom and gloom category, once Manny realizes the implications of his situation, he believes that his own death is not far away. Attempts are made to feed him which prove to be hopelessly inadequate. Thus, it becomes painfully apparent that he will starve.
Manny’s movements and bodily functions also wreck grievous damage on the environment and render large swaths of land uninhabitable. For example, his urine inadvertently floods over hundreds of refugees and sends thousands of gallons of ammonia and salt into a reservoir. To put it mildly, this is not a positive portrayal of a giant co-existing with normal-sized humans. Manny derives little pleasure from his new status, and as previously mentioned, adopts a fatalistic attitude after he discovers that the world is woefully ill-suited to support any living being that stands over a mile tall.
The care and detail taken on what might actually occur if a person suddenly enlarged were commendable. That is why I recommend this to other size-fetish creators. However, the later chapters and especially the ending were not as well-done.
Additionally, the book criticized Christianity. That’s fine, I have no issue with that. However, it was done in such a ham-fisted fashion that it was rather ineffectual. What do I mean? Well, the only two religious characters are ridiculously bloodthirsty. One, Dr. Isaacson, wants to end the world and possibly the entire universe ❗ The other, U.S. Secretary of Defense Cutler, awkwardly prays during cabinet meetings. Additionally, Secretary Cutler (as well as several other officials) is okay with using Manny to kill millions of people in order to achieve political goals. So, given that the two devout characters unabashedly seek to murder huge numbers of people, it seems safe to declare that this novel is critical of Christianity.
The reason that I call this an ineffective critique is because those two characters are so comically evil. A Christian could read this book and think “Well, none of the believers that I know want to murder millions or end the world.” Thus, it would not cause any self-reflection. In contrast, perhaps a more effective approach to criticize American Evangelical Christians might be highlight the family-oriented nature of the church and then ask how evangelicals can justify policies which separate children from their parents. A Christian might think “Well, I do know believers that support President Trump, and I do know that President Trump initiated a policy which forced immigrant families apart.” Furthermore, they may ask themselves “Would Jesus take children away from their mothers?” (SPOILER ALERT: The answer is no.) Point being that it is harder for Christians to deny that they support a politician who enacts policies at variance with their beliefs, as opposed to the ease by which Christians could deny that they want to murder millions. That is not to say that a critique based upon the family separation issue would be decisive and change opinions immediately, only that it would be a more effective approach. (NOTE: Of course, the primary purpose of this book is not to criticize Christianity, but it does seem to be a minor theme.)
There were also a few subplots that served little to no purpose. In one, a South Korean businessman was revealed to secretly be a North Korean agent. However, in the first two scenes with this character it was not altogether clear that it was the same guy. They share a surname, but initially I assume that they were two different people. If a story took place in the U.S. with a Mr. Smith, a good guy, and then in a different scene another person called Mr. Smith appears I may not automatically assume that they are one and the same. Rather, it could be that they just happen to share a common family name. There is more than one Mr. Smith in the U.S. Furthermore, this character acts very differently in his second appearance when he acted on behalf of North Korea. I thought they were different people given their widely divergent personalities, and to the best of my knowledge it wasn’t stated that they had some unique characteristic such as a tattoo, or a birthmark, or a distinct bit of clothing to tie the two versions together. But, later on, United States Air Force (USAF) officer Quinn uses the fact that Manny associated with the double agent as leverage. (NOTE: Manny was not aware that the man was a North Korean agent.) However, that fact was ultimately pointless as Manny would more than likely have acquiesced to Quinn’s request without regard to the North Korean agent’s involvement. So, it felt like a reveal that had no purpose.
There was also a revelation that Manny had heard his girlfriend having sex with another man. (NOTE: He was going through a divorce so he had both a wife and a girlfriend.) One chapter ends with the ominous statement “Manny heard everything.” I read this and thought “Whoa! Something exciting is going to happen! Will Manny embark on a jealousy-fueled rampage around the globe?” But no, nothing comes from it. Later on, Manny fucks a giantess, and he thinks that now his girlfriend can hear him have sex with someone else. But, she was unconscious at the time. So, his effort was futile (or impotent if you prefer 😉 ) Presumably, the fact that she had sex with another man ostensibly motivated him to have sex with the giant woman. Yet, I think he still would have “done the deed” even if he had been unaware of her betrayal. It had already become clear at that point that Manny considered the giantess to be a kindred spirit. He believed that they were two of kind, the only giants in the world. So, Manny was going to “get busy” no matter what. Which left the question, what was the point of that reveal? It did not change anything.
Additionally, the ending was ambiguous and the fate of several characters was unclear. Not in a “Wow, that purposefully ambiguous ending really made me think” manner. Instead, it was “Wow, did someone rip out a chapter from my copy?” For example, the antagonist, the guy who caused people to become giants was the aforementioned Dr. Isaacson. So, he was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions, of people. It feels safe to state that it would be important to provide the final status of the character responsible for the deaths of more people than any war criminal in human history. Yet, it was very unclear what happened to Dr. Isaacson. I *think* the intent was for the reader to believe that he was dead, due to a big fall. But another character took the exact same big fall and managed to survive. Isaacson had some other, rather gross, medical issues, but it was not certain if those issues would have been fatal. So, the conclusion to Isaacson’s story was unsatisfactory to say the least.
Similarly, the fates of heroic characters Lieutenant Colonel Quinn and Manny’s girlfriend Karen was nearly as ambiguous as Isaacson. Both were close to multiple nuclear explosions and may have died in the blasts or due to radiation poisoning afterward. Notably, there was a reference made to Quinn as “General Quinn” a few pages later. However, the character who was referring to Quinn was not in the military themselves. Therefore, they may have misidentified his rank. Additionally, they may have been referring to an earlier conversation which could have taken place before the nuclear bombs dropped. Truthfully, I think readers were meant to understand that Isaacson died while Quinn and Karen lived, but it was unclear.
Of lesser importance, many military acronyms were used such as “APO,” “KATUSA,” “MREs,” “RATT,” “TCS,” etc. which may confuse readers as they were never defined. Most meanings can probably be gleamed from context, but it felt like the writer was being lazy by omitting their breakouts. That said, I do believe that the acronyms added an air of authenticity. Furthermore, I suppose a counter-argument could be that if readers care they could search for the terms online, but why purposely make a text more difficult to read? There was also a reference to the 1976 Korean axe murder incident. However, I do not think that most readers will be familiar with the tragedy, and the book appeared to have confused some details.
As previously discussed, fans of giant sex may be happy to know that there is a scene where the mile-high lovers go at it. Yet, neither of them seem to be having much fun and afterwards something rather gruesome happens. (NOTE: By that I mean something which would have been in keeping with one of the more graphic horror films by David Cronenberg, director and writer of 1986’s “The Fly.”) Nonetheless, I recommend this book for fans of size fiction. It is not perfect, being dragged down by pointless subplots and a weak ending, but still worth a read due to those first several chapters.
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