Book Review: Michael Isenberg’s Full Asylum


It’s hard to know quite what to say about this book. Was it good? No, it was outstanding. What genre is it? Um, comedy/suspense/satire/men’s action/political commentary, if you must nail me down. Oh, and romance. And, as we Southerners call it, rasslin’, the performance-art version of wrestling. Michael Isenberg’s Full Asylum is, like many independent books, in a genre of its own and must be read to be appreciated.

Gimbel O’Hare is Everyman, a brilliant programmer and out-of-the-box thinker who has been trapped by the accident of his sex in the slow lane of corporate advancement. He’s also, like most men, thoroughly confused by women, particularly women in this day of Third Wave Feminism. Because of an unfortunate comment referencing his obsession, the debonair secret-agent character John Dunn, he finds himself inveigled in a sexual harassment case at work that nearly costs his job. Because he goes over the head of his brown-nosing Peter Principle boss to suggest a cost-saving measure that would eliminate his entire department, he finds himself in an escalating battle to keep his job, his sanity, and his life.

I don’t want to say too much more about the book because the surprises Isenberg tosses out left and right are just so much fun. I’m a sucker for eccentric characters, and there are some real gems in this book, particularly Brownie, the old hippie with a surprising love for dangerous technological tinkering, and Cheri Tarte, an absolutely priceless and gorgeous caricature of an Amazonian wrestler-chick with a very sharp mind. Some of the story structure is modern epistolarian, including excerpts of television, movies, and notes to move the plot forward, and these parallel tales enhance the main story very nicely. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this story is there’s not one moment in the book that I can recall skipping over or getting distracted. It’s a rather long novel, and I literally could not put it down.

The single flaw was the tendency of some characters for, to use a TV Tropes concept, author filibuster.  Isenberg does it rarely, and it’s always from the mouth of Cheri or O’Hare, but it did throw me out of the story a bit. The mini-lecture was always conservative libertarian in nature, so I glossed over them, but a liberal might have a different opinion! This flaw was more than made up for, however, by the plot content before and after each; the lectures seemed almost to be a means to slow a plot down that was careening nearly out of control.

I think every single conservative and libertarian out there with a shred of humor would love this book. If you love James Bond, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams and would love to see the three blended together in a slightly-dystopian, completely-hilarious book, you MUST read Full Asylum. I’m not kidding – get it.

(Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book but no other compensation.)

Michael Isenberg Asks, “Who Is Henry Galt?”

Over on his Full Asylum website, author Michael Isenberg posted an interesting review of Garet Garrett’s The Driver, published in 1922. He does a great job of linking the history recounted in this book with what we can all see happening around us today. An excerpt:

The Driver begins amid the economic Panic of 1893. While everyone else is convinced the country is bankrupt, Wall Street speculator Henry Galt is certain it’s rich. He takes advantage of the crisis to buy up shares of the Great Midwestern Railroad at bargain prices. Making himself chairman, he cuts costs, reforms a corrupt procurement system, and takes over other railroads. The resulting powerhouse makes Galt spectacularly wealthy and breathes new life into the American economy. But the pugnacious Galt makes enemies along the way. Unable to defeat him on the level playing field of the market, they turn to the government to take him down.

Sounds familiar, no? Go read it – he makes some very interesting points. History does repeat itself, but it’s amazing how plain this truism is in the circumstances we find ourselves in today.

Michael Isenberg is the author of  Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on Amazon.com.