The Money Run has a long, sordid history, not just for the kinds of goods that are transported along its route, but for the staple of legendary characters it contains, one of whom is about to have a very bad day.
It’s a well-known fact that yours truly has a love/hate relationship with the sleazier side of life. On the one hand you have things like Zombie Fights where two zombies are cruelly pitted against each other for food, zombie themed pictures were the undead are starved to the point of being damn near uncontrollable and then chained up for what the living disgustingly find to be humorous photos, and Zombie Fun Days, which I’d go into more detail about but I’m already having trouble keeping down yesterday’s meal at just the thought. On the other hand, you have exploitation flicks, the often mentioned drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll, and places in every town where you don’t go unless you’re looking for a thrill (or looking to be murdered, sometimes the two go hand in hand). So yeah, as much as I hate sleaze, I can’t help but love it at the same time. It just makes life that much more interesting, even if there are some levels of sleaze that go a bit too far. Such is life on The Money Run, as much as I’d hate some of the things that the stretch of highway hides, I can’t help but think I’d be right at home in the world author Sam W. Anderson has created.
The Money Run is a long highway that snakes through much of America, one used for transporting a variety of goods, much of which wouldn’t be approved of by society, and for good reason. To those not in the know, it’s just a highway like any other around the county, to those whose lives have become a part of the Money Run, it’s the stuff of legends and horror stories. One of those legends, a truck driver who goes by the name Artimus, has a very important cargo he needs to deliver on a very strict timetable. Failure means earning the ire, and much worse, of his contact Smith, the woman who not only can and will make do on her promises of consequences should he not arrive on time, but who is responsible for the creation of his legend, a tactic used to help him pass through the Money Run without any difficulties. Normally, this tactic works out great, everyone along the run is so afraid of his legend, they tend to either leave him be or give him whatever he wants, but not today. Along the route are a few obstacles, each coming in the form of a different person with their own goals along the run; Sargent Henry DeVine, an officer who decides that today of all days is his time to develop a conscious, Tien Howard, a Vietnamese mail order bride looking to disappear along the run, her husband David Howard, and longtime Money Run resident, Sister Dazy. As each player comes into contact with one another, things go from terrible to completely fucked, and worse yet, an unknown problem threatens the run itself, one that could forever change America’s least favorite, and possibly most necessary, highway.
Anyone who’s been reading my reviews for a while now knows that in any story, the way to my nonfunctional heart is interesting characters. Characters have always been the soul of any story for me. They don’t always have to be relatable, they don’t even always have to be likable, but they do have to be interesting, enough so that I can at least care about them. If I couldn’t care less what happens to the people I’m reading about, then I’m not going to end up caring about the story. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to worry about that problem while reading The Nines. Sam W. Anderson created an entire host of incredibly interesting characters that managed to keep me firmly entrenched within the story. Some of them are new to the Money Run, others we’ve been introduced to before, well, been introduced to if you’ve read any of the other Money Run tales. The Nines is only the newest addition to the expansive universe Anderson has created with the Money Run, a world that feels as if it’s not just a fictional place, but an actual highway you might have driven down without even knowing. It’s a place one could easily see as being a very real part of America’s concrete artery system, a very real part you wouldn’t want to find yourself involved in, unless of course you were looking for an illegal, but possibly fun, time and didn’t have to worry about ever coming back to whatever is considered a normal life these days (I have no idea what that is so don’t ask me, something about having a Keurig and a Prius I think). I loved how real the Money Run felt to me, making the story that much more engrossing. If you’ve never taken a trip on the Run, this a good place to start. There are definitely references to some of the other stories, but everything you need to know is right here in The Nines. The great thing about Money Run stories is that each tale is a contained narrative that, while connected to the overall legend, still functions as a standalone story. Should you choose to expand your reading to the other tales (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) you’ll be given a lot more info about the sleazy life that inhabits such a dreadful, yet fascinating place, but this is a great start to get the feel of the land.
One of the things that impressed me the most about The Nines comes from how awful the characters were. Confused a bit? Let me explain. I don’t mean awful in how they were written, I mean that many of these people are just awful human beings with little if any moral compass. Some come from tragic backgrounds that go a long way towards explaining how they became who they are, some found themselves stuck on the Run where they simply adapted to their situation, and some were born for a place where having no conscious is a plus. Anderson is great at giving you just the bits you need to know about the major players’ past without putting so much information into these pasts that the momentum that gradually grows is at all slowed down. One thing Anderson is great at is choosing his words perfectly, managing to pack quite a bit of detail into as few words as necessary. Though his characters are almost all awful people, somehow, in some odd way, you actually to come to like many of them despite the horrible things they’ve done and continue to do, and even the ones you end up despising, you still want to hear more about. I think it says a lot about a writer’s talent in character creation when they can create such incredibly flawed people that still manage to hold your absolute interest. There’s the steroid addicted Artimus who’s worried more about losing his legendary status (and getting some sexy talk from his helicopter escort Bailey) than he is about failing his employers, Sargent DeVine who’s given up all hope for life after losing his Vietnamese wife and daughter when he was sent home from the Vietnam War, mail order bride Tien Howard, a woman who bears the same name as DeVine’s lost daughter and whose main motivation is getting away from her unexciting life, and then there’s her husband David Howard. David loves a movie, so much so that his life seems to revolve around it, a movie I’d never heard of before called Lost in America. If Anderson had not written a book I enjoyed so much, I might almost start to hate him just a little bit for making me watch it (a character was obsessed with the film, I had to watch it). Though David’s tastes in cinema is atrocious, it’s his extreme paranoia that makes one really wonder what he’s up to. Last but not least is Sister Dazy, a nun who doesn’t mind getting down and dirty, and I do mean dirty, if it leads to her saving a poor soul along the Run. These are the novel’s major players, but they aren’t even close to the colorful cast of characters you’ll meet as you make your way through, and far from them being filler just to further the main characters’ journey, they are full individuals themselves. I’d go into detail, but I’ll let you discover the awesomeness that is Bear on your own.
If you’re looking for something sleazy, something completely original, or something that reminds a person of the exploitation films of yesteryear, you can’t go wrong with The Nines.
You can find the book here: The Nines Amazon
The Undead Review
Written By: Sam W. Anderson
Published By: Rothco Press
Published Year: 2015