Only Americans Burn in Hell by Jarett Kobek

Jarett Kobek's new novel reads like Kurt Vonnegut meets Stewart Lee meets a Twitter-thread wormhole

Book Review by Rebecca Wojturska | 07 Apr 2019
  • Only Americans Burn in Hell
Book title: Only Americans Burn in Hell
Author: Jarett Kobek

Let’s be honest: the world feels like a shit-show. Trump, Brexit and a thousand injustices fill our news feeds. Reading a lazy fantasy novel that uses fairy’s magic as a substitute for good plotting is depressingly similar to reading a newspaper article breaking the news that a billionaire TV celebrity is the President of the United States. This pretty much sums up Only Americans Burn in Hell. Chapters alternate between this fantasy narrative about magic fairies and commentary on the power structures that dominate in the real world. The overall effect? Kurt Vonnegut meets Stewart Lee meets a Twitter-thread wormhole.

Jarett Kobek’s writing is hilarious and punchy, repeatedly drawing in the reader with running jokes and one-liners before delivering mighty slaps to the face with some hard-hitting truths – reminders that, while we may laugh, all is not well. Kobek is interested in the ways in which pretty much everything we enjoy benefits those at the top and how little we question it. Our phones, social media, good intentions, this laptop I write on: nothing is beyond making money for those who use it for inhumane acts.

Despite its genre-defying boldness, engagement with injustices and commentary on power systems, Only Americans Burn in Hell is without pretension and condescension. Kobek doesn’t hold back in this hilarious and vicious criticism of all we take for granted. You shouldn’t hold back from reading it. [Rebecca Wojturska]

Serpent's Tail, 11 Apr, £12.99