The Angry Red Planet by Ralph Robert Moore

A review

Unlike Ralph Robert Moore’s previous novel that I read (Father Figure), ‘The Angry Red Planet’ does not contain any supernatural elements, nor is it a horror story, as such. What you have is a tale of tumultuous relationships, complex themes and a growing sense of a bleak conclusion awaiting.

With such a recipe apparent, why did I find this such an absorbing read? Partly it’s the author’s prose style. The first half of the book contains scene after scene featuring a married couple carrying out everyday existence under exceptional circumstances. Yet the author manages to make a simple conversation in a hospital waiting room evoke a growing tension and anticipation about what is to happen. There are scenes where the seemingly mundane preparation and eating of food acts as a hook from which to suspend conflict between the quite unique characters. The internal dialogue opens a window into the protagonist’s every day struggle with events that confound and frustrate him.

Harry, the main character,has an anger management problem. Not just the typical middle-aged, getting tetchy kind of irritation that comes with age and the accompanying cynicism of life. More a growing, boiling magma of fury that can erupt spontaneously, usually triggered by trivial events. Often with deadly results. Harry engineers a rather unique method of dispatch for a gold-digging paramour of his wife using a cherry picker and a nest of killer wasps. And I won’t mention what happens in the last few chapters!

Central to the appeal of Angry Red Planet is the relationship between Harry and his wife, Edna. She is not a well woman, having undergone a series of progressively invasive surgeries. Harry supports her, gives her every attention and care his time and money will offer – yet she treats him like the proverbial brown stuff. Here is the complexity of Harry’s character – that he manages to control his temper to the extent that he does. Even when it comes to his insufferable in-laws.

As is the author’s trademark, you never quite know where the story is going to go, especially when one of Harry’s clients offers him a rather unique and fantastical opportunity. I won’t say what it is as this would constitute a spoiler, but suffice it to say – the book title is significant.

This is a disturbing read, but a gripping one. Like Father figure, you feel somehow changed at the end of it, like your perspective has shifted somewhat. I felt less judgmental towards certain character types at the close of reading when I understood that people are often driven by internal forces that are beyond their control; and sometimes, folks are often doing the very best they can under the circumstances. In other cases, you come to realise that some people are just dicks by choice.

Read ‘Angry Red Planet’ with anticipation, but don’t expect a peaceful happy experience.

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