Without the prompting of the Urban Fantasy Aficionados group, I never would have picked up "Gil's All Fright Diner". Appearance-wise, it looks like a campy throwaway or b-movie poster. "Now serving Armageddon with a side of fries..."? Please! Then I started looking a little closer. For this effort, Martinez received an Alex Award from the American Library Association. And with critics comparing Martinez's work to the likes of Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams, I was eager to start reading. I was far from disappointed.
The best comparisons I can think to make are from movies and television. The story's as if "Tremors" and "Shaun of the Dead" had a baby together. For Duke the werewolf, I couldn't get a taller, chubbier Judah Friedlander out of my mind; Steve Buschiemi would make a great Earl the vampire. And the humor! A couple of examples are below:
- Martinez on teen hangout Make Out Barn: "The barn was a place for certain people, namely those of surging hormones and acne-induced angst, preferably in groups of two, to get away from the endless hell that teenagers tend to perceive their lives to be until they grow up and realize that real hell generally strikes around middle age, when one discovers that life is either far to short or far too long."
- DUKE: I'm hungry. EARL: You could'a ate earlier. I told'ja to get something earlier. DUKE: Wasn't hungry then. EARL: You could'a got a sandwich. That's your problem. You never think ahead. You're always living in the now. You've got one of them there reactive minds. NARRATOR: Duke cursed the day Earl had gotten his hands on a dog-eared copy of "Dianetics".
Laugh-out-loud moments are found throughout the book. Honestly, there are times where Martinez channels Wodehouse in his perfectly written banter. High praise for a first novel, but Martinez deserves it.
Why am I not giving Martinez a five-star rating? Call me Prudence McPrude, but the language would make sailors blush. And I found the sexualization of 17-year-old Tammy to be somewhat disturbing and unnecessary.
That said, the story was well-written, breezy, funny as hell, and gives pig Latin its due as a great linguistic achievement. If you can handle an avalanche of f-bombs and the near fetishizing of a high schooler's anatomy, give this quick read a chance.