Hell is other people looking fit in “The Gym.”
Jerry is a recently divorced man whose less-than-successful adventures on Tinder lead him to question his state of flabbiness. He decides to try the newest Gym in town- which before long becomes the ONLY Gym in town. The Gym, as its authoritarian, monolithic name might suggest, is an institution that is deadly serious about the fitness business. Its members become marvelously sculpted advertisements in record time- but of course, there is a high membership fee to pay: As the bizarre events involving the Gym become impossible to ignore, Jerry, his friend Ben, and his ex-wife Becky try to get at the bottom of the mystery- before they all “thin out” for good.
Phony McFakename (who ought to come out of incognito some time soon) is known for punchy humorous deconstructions. “The Gym” is slightly different. While it is not McFakename’s first “serious” story (and it’s not even that “serious” most of the time), it IS the one that most adapts to the modern shape of a “serious” thriller. The apparent models are Bentley Little’s novels of modern life turning nightmarish by degrees, (novels with titles like “The Mailman,” “The Store,” “The Association,” and “The Policy”) as well as Troma movies that smoosh gore and humor. Oh, and by the time Jerry picks up a chainsaw to fight a creature that I cannot discuss due to a non-disclosure agreement, you’ll be flashing back to Ash. Not the Pokémon Ash, the “Evil Dead,” chainsaw-for-hand Ash.
In that sense, it may be the most satisfying of McFakename’s books yet, particularly because it works as more than a humorous, outlandish horror tale; it also offers thoughtful satire, and not just the obvious digs about our conformist fascination with ‘perfection’, but also a much more subtle commentary about the powerful pull of totalitarian belief systems – and the book doesn’t necessarily reach the easy conclusions you might expect.
But mostly “The Gym” is fast, slim, slick fun. As the tagline puts it : “Drop in, Work Out, Drop Dead.” Get it here, at Amazon.com