Review Corner: Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn


I was fortunate to receive a free copy of the book Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn from the publishers Simon & Schuster for a review. I had never heard of it before but it sounded like it could be interesting, it looked like style I hadn’t really read before, and like it could possibly funny; it involved the repercussions of a hit man disguised as an intern taking down and taking over the organization he once worked for.
My first thought as I was introduced to the narrator and subject of the story, John Lago, was…what an arrogant ass… The next thing I learned was that Hostile Takeover was actually the sequel to a book called The Intern’s Handbook which apparently is the story of how and why he wrote the book and which outlines the actual attack on HR, the company he worked for as a hit man, and detailing the death of his former boss. Then, there’s Alice, John’s wife/ex-wife/attempted murderer/ attempted hit. Oh yes, it gets complicated and then some; it’s like watching a high school relationship play out in between high powered guns and with a lot more “fucks” thrown in (the characters seem to have as much range and depth as your typical tuned out teenager).
From the start, you can hear the swagger between the pauses of John’s spoken and unspoken thoughts. You can practically see the quirked grin that opens to spew out little more than profanity and bravado to the point you aren’t sure whether to laugh or finally shove your fist down his throat.  The story starts with John speaking with an agent named Fletcher that John contemptuously refers to as “Fletch”, and relays the events of the takeover of HR by John and Alice up to the present, where John resides in FBI custody in the interrogation room after having been arrested.
It’s hard to know how much of this book to take seriously as a story. Admittedly the chapters are short and easy to get through and with the style simple to read it is easy to glide through this book. Often times, I found myself having to put it down and laughing to myself off to the side because something the narrator said was so ludicrous or absolutely improbable, even with suspension of disbelief.
For instance, John, having to be the biggest boy on the playground learns the Chinese art of “Iron Palm” which, according to Wikipedia, is the martial art of conditioning the hands to deliver powerful blows without injury to their hands.
It is not his learning this technique that I question, no, it is that a random, powerful, paranoid, Chinese businessman and all of his security guards, just happen to recognize John as a student of Iron Palm, and essentially are *all* incredibly impressed by his mastering it…..
Seriously? I found myself asking that repeatedly throughout this book. At some point I just found every new dramatic inevitability laughable. Whether it was snatches of dialogue, a new absurd situation, or the complete suspension of disbelief involving how much of a “badass” John Lago is. Considering how many gun battles, fist fights, knives, and things that go boom that this guy gets into, he doesn’t seem to get hit much, or at least it doesn’t seem to have much effect upon him, and I’m including pre-Iron Palm powers too…
Then, again, there’s Alice. Essentially the only woman in the book, she is referred to as “crazy” and paranoid multiple times as personality traits, in addition to her mood swinging behavior and radical decision making: one minute in love with Lago, the next trying to kill him. John and Alice’s supposed loyalty to each other is hard to take seriously and difficult not to view as at least semi-sarcastic.
My only other issue involves the lack of women, and how the very few in the book are portrayed or used in the story. One line in particular still stands out, while in a strip club (of course), our delightful narrator mentions, referring to the dancers, that he “speaks their primitive lipstick language”…I’m still not sure how to process that, and so I tell myself to let it go…but it irks me a bit, oh well. Also, the fact that the only “strong” female character is portrayed as an unlikable, bipolar, paranoid, power hungry, woman with a gun and the desire to shoot, not my favorite aspect, I’ll say.
Hostile Takeoverwas definitely not quite like anything else I’ve read before. You could easily read this one without having read the first because the events are explained and referred to quickly. I’m just not sure it’s the kind of book that’s for me or one I would recommend to anyone to instantly go read. If you see it in a library, it might give you a laugh, or you might thoroughly enjoy it more than I did, who is to say? I just prefer something with a little more substance than is in this book and the characters in it, which honestly remind me more of teenagers trying to act big and tough while playing with a bunch of money and weaponry, oh and drugs, plenty of drugs being had.
To each their own. Some people are definitely going to love it, and if the synopsis on the cover sounds like your kind of book, go for it. It’s one hell of a ride.
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