Codename Prague is the second book that D. Harlan Wilson has asked me to review. The first was They Had Goat Heads, which left me completely baffled, and I’m still at a loss as to what to say about the man’s writing. Given that he appears to have my mailing address, however, I should probably say something nice, like the novel is a smart, witty, mind-bending techno-thriller (which is true). In fact, it’s probably the smartest of the bizarro novels I’ve read since stumbling upon the genre. Like Andersen Prunty’s The Beard, Codename Prague flaunts many of the rules of traditional storytelling to reveal that such rules are, at best, artificial and, at worse, completely arbitrary. And like Jess Gulbranson’s 10 A Boot Stomping, the novel has the feel of a whacked-out Philip K. Dick novel. What separates Codename Prague from other bizarro works, however, is its apparent literary pedigree.
Among the more “literary” touches in the novel are an (implied) army of insectoid assassins known as SAMSAs (Syncretic American Metaformulaic Stock Agents), a pair of Keatsian lab assistants named Truth and Beauty (who are ugly and tend to lie), and a psychocorporeal fusion of John Keats and Adolph Hitler known as the Sans Merci. To keep things interesting,Wilson also throws in a number of references to pop-culture icons like Michael Jackson and James Cagney. And a plot, which has something to do with an assassin (codename: Vincent Prague; real name: Vincent Prague) trying to stop the Sans Merci from being unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Or something along those lines. To be honest, I’m not really sure. At this point, I’m wondering whether I actually read the book or it was all just a dream.
Let’s just put it this way: D. Harlan Wilson’s latest novel is a highly-polished, really weird and (sometimes) really funny example of metafiction. If you’re into that kind of thing, then you’ll definitely love Codename Prague. If not, well, you probably stopped reading this review two paragraphs ago.