Un­of­fi­cial His­tory of Pi Wei

Bren­dan Connell Snug­gly Books (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $14.95 (198pp), 978-1-943813-78-0

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - GERAL­DINE RICHARDS

With Un­of­fi­cial His­tory of Pi Wei, Bren­dan Connell chal­lenges the con­ven­tions of the clas­sic re­venge tale.

In an an­cient vil­lage, Sung kills Pi Wei’s fa­ther, and the boy is then aban­doned by his mother. He merely sur­vives un­til an en­counter with Mas­ter T’uan. Un­der his tute­lage, Pi Wei grows from a pa­thetic ser­vant into a for­mi­da­ble foe, ready to seek jus­tice for his fa­ther’s death.

At first a fa­mil­iar jus­tice quest, the novel moves away from tra­di­tional nar­ra­tive forms as it pro­gresses. El­e­ments of other gen­res play into the nar­ra­tive as well. Mas­ter T’uan is rem­i­nis­cent of the her­mit kung fu mas­ter of popular films; though he ap­pears old and weak, he is a skill­ful fighter, be­stow­ing wis­dom. His ad­vice—“prac­tice makes per­fect”—be­comes ironic at the most tragic mo­ment in the novel.

The di­a­logue has a cin­e­matic qual­ity and moves the ac­tion at a rapid pace. Fan­tasy el­e­ments en­hance the novel’s play­ful­ness: money mag­i­cally returns to its owner from wher­ever it has been spent, and men fall in love with trees. A tree mourns the death of her lover in a touch­ing lament that bor­ders on myth­i­cal. The text com­bines po­etry with prose, with po­ems ap­pear­ing reg­u­larly and en­hanc­ing the book’s at­mos­phere, though even the gen­eral prose has a po­etic qual­ity.

Al­ways aware of its style, the story moves be­yond what’s ex­pected. Num­bered and un­num­bered lists, apho­risms, and spac­ing and fonts that re­call elec­tronic mes­sag­ing all make it more unique. At times, the art of the writ­ing dis­tracts from the story it­self, and the book be­comes an ex­am­ple of chal­leng­ing nar­ra­tive con­ven­tions as much as any­thing else.

Bren­dan Connell’s novel is en­ter­tain­ing and con­ven­tion break­ing—a fresh take on vengeance sto­ries.

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