The Longest Con by Michaelbrent Collins

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“I had begun to throw on my clothes, but the way Larry said that stopped me with one leg in my jeans, the other hanging in air as I hopped around with all the dignity of Kanye West at the Grammys.”

The Longest Con by Michaelbrent Collings is a semi-autobiographical horror comedy that takes place during a Comic Con type convention. There are cos-players, panels, vendor booths, celebrities like Stan Lee, a game room, and everything else you’d expect at such a convention. However, there’s also a hidden world of supernatural creatures including brownies, dwarves, vampires, werewolves, witches, succubi, gremlins, and so forth who like to go to conventions dressed up as people… and not all of them like to play nice.

All writers base their characters on themselves at least a little bit, but in The Longest Con, the main character is Michaelbrent Collings himself. He’s a fiction writer who goes to conventions to sell his books. He also knows about the hidden supernatural world and is tasked with solving a murder in which the prime suspect is a vampire.

Many of his fellow writers are also characters in the book. Larry Correia is a weapons expert, D. J. Butler is a cyborg, Blake Casselman is a martial artist, Mercedes Yardley is a succubus, and Kevin J. Anderson and Orson Scott Card are both wizards. Dan Wells makes a cameo as himself and Collings’ mother is also one of the main characters.

While there is the supernatural horror angle, this book is first and foremost a comedy. Collings is a self-described smart ass and usually has a sarcastic comeback handy for any situation. He breaks the fourth wall throughout this book, sometimes including footnotes commenting on his own writing. It’s written in a conversational tone which I liked.

I’ve got to say it was very brave to put so much of himself into this book. By the end of it, you really feel like you know him as a person, warts and all. Much of the humor in the book is self-deprecating, (which is safer than poking fun at others and risking offense, although he does that too) but it sometimes felt like he was being too hard on himself.

I liked the scene in which a vampire self harms by drawing crosses on himself. The crosses burn him, sizzle for a second, and then heal. I thought that was pretty clever. I also liked another scene in which Collings is thrown into the ceiling, hangs there for a second, then “gravity showed up” and “reminded everyone who was boss.”

Most of the humor didn’t work for me, although a lot of humor is in the delivery, so I probably would have enjoyed the comedy more in an audio format. Plus, everybody just has a different sense of humor. You might find this book more hilarious than I did. That said, I did like a few parts — like when a slime bog monster threw up, then ate what came out, then threw up again — because it reminded me of my dog. I also liked that a grenade designed to kill a variety of monsters containing silver, holy water, garlic, and wolfsbane was “developed by a Catholic, Buddhist, and Unitarian partnership.” That was pretty funny.

There is a bit of a conservative slant to this book (Collings is not a fan of Bill Clinton for one thing), but it’s not overly political so I think liberals will still be able to enjoy it for the most part. I personally didn’t care much for the testosterone-fueled opening chapters of this book, but I stuck with it and I’ve got to say this book is one that keeps getting better as it goes along, and everything falls into place nicely by the end.

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