“The Same Tapes: You’ve Never Read Anything Like This Before” by RF Husnik is a book of mostly lost opportunity. In a lot of ways the idea of the book is exciting and filled with promise. Sadly, the excitement gets lost as the reader is bogged down by the writing style. But maybe I’m being too hard on this book.
The hero of the book is Joe Same. As the name implies, he seems to represent every man and the temptations and choices we face every day. But ultimately, he doesn’t seem to really represent us for the same reasons. His failures are greater, his choices are worse, and his punishment is greater in every sense of the word. The story is mostly told from Joe’s point of view with a few chapters presented from the viewpoints of supporting characters. Sometimes the chapters written by the other characters help and other times they just seem pointless and confuse or cloud the issue. I found this especially evident for the chapter called “Letter from Juror 13”. This chapter just seems to be thrown in as a chance to repeat what was said in an earlier chapter (“The Trial”). Husnik may have felt that this would clarify or re-enforce the previous chapter but it just seems to slow down the story.
It’s Husnik’s approach to the story and this style of writing that I have the greatest objection to. The transitions are harsh and hard to follow. The editing of the book is rough and makes it hard to follow. The book tries to explain this early on in both the first chapter, written by Joe, and the second chapter, written by Joe’s attorney. Both chapters and one of the final ones, written from Jane’s point of view, try to explain the unstructured nature of the book and its failure to adhere to the normal rules of writing, but in the long run I found the style confusing and tiring. Accepting the unusual structure and style of the book, there are problems with this story as well as basic editing issues that should not be excused. Even all of this might be forgiven had RF Husnik given life to some of the better characters.
The premise of the story is the salvation of Joe through educating and enlightening journeys. Journeys designed or intended to bring Joe to certain universal truths. These journeys often involve Joe interacting with famous, and infamous, characters from our past. It’s these chapters where I was the most disappointed. The characters or stories never really developed. We are just presented with conclusions about why they are good or bad and what we should take from that particular episode. I feel this was the books failure to really entertain. The premise of a person traveling through time has been worked. I don’t see anything wrong with doing it again, especially given the point the author is trying to make, but it fails because nothing is done with the great characters or premise.
I’ve spoken of this book in what might be the harshest tones. Because of the style it was written in, it is difficult to read. Characters and story that should have been developed weren’t, transitions are harsh and confusing, and the story is just dis-jointed. But I liked the point, I liked the lessons in RF Husnik’s “The Same Tapes: You’ve never Read Anything Like This Before”. I think they are all good and I do think they are universal truths that might need to be said more often. I just wish the author had taken his imaginative idea of Joe Same and used it to create a book that flowed and entertained and not just to flog me with those lessons.