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Rollicking read could use an editor

August 18, 2011|By Brian McGackin
  • Phil Drake, author of "Fat Chance!" and former city editor of the Glendale News-Press. (Courtesy of Phil Drake)
Phil Drake, author of "Fat Chance!" and former…

Whenever possible, book reviewers will set out to make clear statements in their reviews on whether a book is “good” or “bad.” Strong plot, compelling themes and layered characters: good. Muddled prose, poor editing and heavy-handed description: bad. Not every book is so considerate as to lie clearly on one side of the good/bad line or the other, though, and the growing use of self-publishing companies like Xlibris to circumvent agents, editors and publishers means that the line will only continue to be blurred further.

“Fat Chance,” a new fantasy novel by former Glendale-area resident Phil Drake, is a book that straddles that line between genius and not quite there yet. The novel, which tells the hilarious story of two warring kingdoms, Thinsylvania and Chubolia, and their determination to remain at opposite ends of the eating disorder spectrum, is clever and poignant in a society that can’t decide if it’s too fat or unhealthily skinny. It’s also a bit rough around the edges, though.

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When Princess Tunya of Chubolia is kidnapped by the Prime Minister of Thinsylvania to be his Prince Rodney’s bride, a small band of Chubolians attempt to cross a treacherous mountain range to save her. The brave men encounter obstacles that would make even slightly overweight individuals cringe: rope bridges, food shortages, turnstiles, etc. The chronically skinny residents of Thinsylvania have their own problems, though. Anorexic potential brides for Prince Rodney keep wasting away to dust, which is why they’re forced to outsource in the first place, and the Prime Minister keeps convincing King Slendall to outlaw more and more types of food.

The story gets a bit goofy at times, but as a satire that is more than acceptable. Drake makes it clear that neither the Thinsylvanians nor the Chubolians are correct in thinking that their way of life is healthy or entirely correct, and he does so with humor and highly original conflicts. The characters, while understandably over the top, are each unique and wonderfully fleshed out — no pun intended, Chubolians.

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