S.G. Browne’s Fated is a fun read, especially if you have a warped sense of humor. Like I do. Fated is a demented book, but I mean that in a good way. Everything is fair game in this book, even god. (Perhaps especially god, who is known as Jerry in this book.) I had a very good time reading this book. I’d recommend it to all my friends with warped senses of humor.
Our narrator is Fate, who is in a bit of a rut after more than 250,000 years of assigning life paths to billions of humans. He’s forbidden to interfere and with the rise of consumerism and the other attendant evils of modern life, his humans are consistently screwing up their lives. Everyone’s miserable and it’s making Fate depressed. The only bright spot on the horizon is a very special, funny, and lovely woman who Fate keeps bumping into. But Sara is on the path of Destiny (who is a bit of a bitch, actually) and Fate supposed to stay away from her. But you just can’t help who you fall in love with.
As Fate falls more deeply in love with Sara, he starts to cheer up. He also starts to bend the rules about interfering, nudging his humans towards better lives. As I read, I thought this would be a fairly run of the mill funny book. But then the plot starts to twist and the book just gets better. I loved how this book twisted and turned its way to a wonderfully bittersweet ending. I won’t ruin it for anyone else, in spite of what the scientists say.
But what I loved about this book was its cast of intangibles and emotions and deadly sins and virtues. Karma is an absolute hoot; he stole every scene he was in.
I’ve seen this reaction before, back during the Classical Age, after the exodus and before the birth of the Roman Empore, when the vast majority of humans were hungry for messiahs and spiritual leaders. Karma would sit down on a hill or under a tree and just start taking and the people would flock to him, asking him to lean them out of whatever persecution or injustice they suffered. When he got them all good and worked up, right where he wanted them, he’d spontaneously combust and they’d run away screaming.
Afterward, we’d have a good laugh about it over some wine and unleavened bread. (188)*
And how can you not love a book where Death is better known as Dennis (and rigor mortis creeps him out) and god is Jerry? There are heaps on historical jokes. Fate had one night stands with Helen of Troy and Cleopatra. And:
Faith has been replaced more than once over the millennia, Fidelity was transferred to a desk job in the wake of the free-love debacle, Reason got canned after the Salem Witch Trials, and Ego lost his job after the Beatles broke up. (20)
You’d think a book about fate would be terribly depressing, but this book was an absolute joy to read. I actually wish it was a little longer so that I could hang out with the cast a little bit longer. And then there’s the style. This book is concise and punchy, never wearing out jokes and scenes by making them drag on too long. Fate is a delightfully irreverent narrator:
The thing about Truth is that he’s a kleptomanic…The thing about Wisdom is that he has an inferiority complex. (206)
I hope Browne has more books like this one inside. I’m very much looking forward to whatever he comes up with next.
* All quotes from the 2010 trade paperback edition.