Resistance by John Birmingham

A review by Nalini Haynes

Resistance is the 2nd Dave Hooper novel; the first was Emergence.

Dave Hooper is a classic dropkick: for most of the 1st novel, he obsesses about a night he had with 2 top-class hookers and a packet of cocaine right before he’s dropped onto an oil rig out at sea where monsters from the deep are killing his friends. Y’know. The usual.

In Emergence, Dave picks up a splitting maul, hauls back and kills a boss-monster-dude, giving him magical powers.

Now Dave has been shanghai-d by the good ol’ US of A defence forces who want him to give him his magically-acquired information and protect them from battalions of monsters.

And fire-breathing dragons.

Shit just got real.

Resistance begins with a Russian spy at an art gallery in New York being attacked by monsters. Turns out, she didn’t die. Can anyone say ‘kick-ass chick’?

Next scene: Dave humping a woman while walking around a trashed hotel room, eating and drinking. Simultaneously. While carrying the woman, pumping up and down on his, er, male member.

When I read this, I was like ‘WTF? There’s a mistake here… gotta be a mistake…’ Nope. No mistake. It’s FARCE. When it comes to farce, I’m more of an Importance of Being Ernest or Black Books kinda girl but at least I got that this is meant to be funny. I’m wondering now how much of Dave’s dickery was meant to be funny in the first book, how much was humour I missed.

During Resistance fire-breathing dragons soar over the landscape, becoming a threat to aircraft. Monsters emerge from underground into countries around the world.  The US and Russia get into a pissing war over spies instead of collaborating to defeat their mutual enemy. Dave does superhero stuff then gets really really hungry.

BFGs (Big Fucking Guns) abound as do other ‘splodey weapons. Birmo (John Birmingham, the author. What? I’m AUSTRALIAN, we abbreviate EVERYTHING) is a long-standing fan of ‘splodeys so he’s written LOTS of satisfying ‘splodeys into this trilogy.

Dave exudes a ‘fuck-me’ hormone that makes it difficult but not impossible for women to resist him. A colleague explains this to him in words of two syllables or less. Dave realises that he’s effectively drugging and date-raping women and stops to think.

A guy Dave respects in the armed forces is revealed as gay. Dave worries about the guy touching him as if helping Dave get kitted out might cause him to ‘catch’ queerness like a virus. But, before Dave realises the dude is gay, Dave respects him. Dave is confused. He’s still an ableist, homophobic, misogynist dipshit but he thinks things over.

At the Melbourne Writers Festival, Birmo said he intentionally wrote Dave Hooper to be like an Ipswich (Please Explain*) resident: racist, sexist and homophobic. His writing was so accurate that his publishers wrote him a lovely letter saying that he’d nailed it but they couldn’t publish Dave as he was. Birmo had to tone it down.

Birmo grew up in Ipswich so certain values are entrenched, even in him. However, at the MWF he added that, thanks to his father, he realised those values are something to be overcome rather than cherished. Likewise, Dave Hooper’s character was fully-formed by the time he was about 7 years old (Jesuit’s declaration, anyone?). Birmo said Dave won’t magically change his personality but he is challenged that, perhaps, his behaviour needs to change to get by in the current era.

I loathed Dave in the first book to the point where it spoiled the story for me. Now I’m giving the trilogy a second chance and I enjoyed Resistance.

Whether you’re into diversity or against it, you can read the Dave Hooper trilogy. Even with my realisation of Birmo’s mindset and intentions I found it a challenging read but I have new respect both for the trilogy and the author.

I’m not sure how to rate Resistance yet as this trilogy has been so challenging for me. In lieu of having read the final novel (out already and in my TBR pile, a review to come soon – after I’ve moved interstate) I’m giving Resistance 4 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781742614052
Format: Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Category: Fiction/Thriller/suspense/Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Imprint: Macmillan Australia

*Please explain: the catchphrase for which the federal parliament Member for Ipswich, Pauline Hanson, became famous. She was ignorant and racist.
Resistance cover: a road in the middle of nowhere leads into a stormy sky with airplanes and explosions