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The Secrets of All Secrets Kindle Edition
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At a time when most of us either curse or cheer every evening during the nightly news, some of the characters from Washington, Madison, and Jefferson, to Jonah, Jeptha, and Magdalene, to the two main characters, Dali and Zane, are all too real. Wells’ captures the climate of politics, morality, ethics, and religion in 2017 through zany characters whose dialogue captures the conversations many of us have in our heads, but would never admit to aloud.
To me, the funniest and most clever of the above was the conversation between the hit man, named Speque (Speck) who is bald and stands only 5’2”, and the novel’s main character, Zane. They have a lengthy volley of language and tongue in cheek tete a’ tete while sitting naked in a gazebo at a nudist resort in Florida. As it turns out, Speque is a retired Professor of Humanities turned hit-man, and Zane is a drop out seminary student who majored in humanities at Vanderbilt. The conversation veers in every possible direction that will delight those who understand Wells’ references (read: employed and unemployed overly educated humanities-types), but it will also be entertaining for those who don’t understand all of the references to literature, art and philosophy. In fact, the book can be enjoyed on many levels, but I could see Wells’ twinkling eye winking at me as if we were having a wonderful time at a cocktail party reserved for the kind of folks who could quote Pascal.
--Michael O'Rourke, author of PAUL BUNYAN LIVES! AND OTHER TALES FROM THE NATURAL WORLD.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.