Henry Martin's "Escaping Barcelona", the introductory novel of The Mad Days of Me trilogy, thrilled me from the start. I believe the best plots, whether told off screen or on, are those that are aware of their epicenter. In other words, what drives the story and the event that introduces it. Martin gives readers this event before the close of the first chapter, and while being vague is cruel, writing a review full of spoilers would be crueler still. Martin is a master of his craft, and that is all you need to know.
"Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona" met and exceeded my initial expectations. Martin draws his readers in with alluring imagery of Barcelona: a city whose skin shines with an irresistible beauty, obscuring the living contagion beneath. Rudy is pulled beneath her skin and into the darkest pits of the city. He survives any way he can, holding his optimistic outlook like a shield and prays it does not rust in the presence of the filth that seeks to permeate his very soul every day.
As a narrator, Rudy was extremely reliable. Sometimes first person novels can be annoying because you find yourself wanting something the narrator is not giving you. This is not one of those cases. Rudy's concise descriptions of the city, his enemies and friends, his mindset and of himself are well crafted. I was very impressed with the literary techniques employed by Mr. Martin. Imagery, parallelism, similes, metaphors, stream of consciousness, and well placed anecdotes are just some of the mechanisms turning inside this novel.
With every twist of the plot, Martin thrusts Rudy deeper into the dregs of Barcelona. I believed at some points he was purposely thinking of ways to make Rudy's darkest moments bleaker still, just to see how his characterization would develop. I am just happy there are two more novels to read after this one.
As a side note, Martin's "Escaping Barcelona", is the first Indie novel I have ever read. The first chapter hooked me deeply and yanked me into the universe of Indie prose. I felt chained by suspense throughout the last 80 pages and anxiously awaited the fate of his main character. Sweat covered my hands and iPhone. I had to shake cramps from my hands before beginning this review because I had been gripping the phone so tight, highly anticipating the climax and conclusion.
All and all a very impressive, inspirational ride. I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I recommend this novel for anyone looking for a solid literary novel with great characterization.