Reading and understanding poetry can be a challenge for some, but with Aaron Poochigian’s latest work, “Mr. Either/Or,” it can also be very immersive and have you on the edge of your seat.
“Mr. Either/Or” is a novel written in verse that tells the story of Zach Berzinski, an undercover FBI agent tasked with bringing in the “Dragon’s Claw,” a jade box that, according to Chinese legend, contains the apocalypse.
Set against the backdrop of Manhattan, Berzinski faces off against Maoist gangsters, comes across mole-men in subway tunnels and tries to save the human race from human-hating aliens. Berzinski does all this while grappling with a potential romance with Li-ling Levine, curator of the Met Museum’s Asian Wing.
While “Mr. Either/Or” was initially difficult to read – I don’t generally enjoy reading poetry ‒ I was surprised to see how quickly I caught on to the flow of the writing. I think this largely has to do with the fact that Poochigian made the story itself very modern and fast-paced.
I found that once I got into the flow of the writing and could focus on the story, I didn’t want to put the book down. There are intense action scenes where you aren’t sure if Berzinski will make it out unscathed, and then there are scenes just as intense where you find yourself rooting for Brezinski and Levine’s romance.
I would have to say the romance aspect was one of my favorite parts of the book because it wasn’t overbearing. Once it was introduced, it served as a nice reprieve and breather from the fight scenes and alien invasion. It wasn’t an in-your-face romance. It was subtle and honest.
I also enjoyed the language Poochigian used, not just to tell the story, but in every character’s dialogue. Berzinski, for example, is in his 20s and speaks like he is in his 20s – he doesn’t come across as older than he is, which a lot of fiction writers tend to do to their main characters.
Speaking of characters, my favorite has to be Levine. Not only is she incredibly smart, but she is, frankly, a badass who isn’t hesitant when it comes to saving the human race from an invasion of aliens who literally kill humans and wear their skins.
“Mr. Either/Or,” once you get into it, is an exciting and inventive story that is full of action, and I can easily picture it being adapted for film or television one day (preferably television so we can see multiple Berzinski/Levine adventures). It’s a novel in verse that those who typically steer clear of poetry should try.