The Bottom Line: An addictive, rapid-fire medical thriller unlike any you’ve ever experienced.
When it comes to the word “cryonics,” the first thought that pops into your head might be the tabloid rumors about Ted Williams’ frozen, severed head being mistreated in some private Arizona facility. So what could be even creepier? Try Exodus Cryonics, the company Stacy Childs introduces us to in his novel, The Boys of the Dixie Pig.
Don’t let the title fool you – although the book contains a helping of New Orleans flavor, this is not the southern-fried crime thriller you might think it is (the title actually refers to a restaurant in Abilene, Texas, not the chain of the same name that is popular throughout many southern states. It’s in the Abilene-based Dixie Pig that the book’s five main characters once hung out: Ace, Donnie, Willie, Mack Barton, and Goody).
As in a lot of great Las Vegas buddy stories, the gang reunites for an adventure at a casino. And as in all such stories, what happens in Vegas most definitely does not stay in Vegas.
Although the book switches points of view and locations with regularity, the focal point is often Mack Barton. That’s a good thing, as Childs has done a remarkable job making him memorable, and at times, amusing. A weapons dealer by trade, Barton is full of believable eccentricities, such as his philosophy on sex:
Mack Barton insisted that he pay for sex. It beat all the emotional attachment that accompanied the word love. There was just no percentage in spending money on women, whether you were married or not, because the baggage that came with the love-and-respect crap far outweighed the fleeting pleasure that was the whole reason for it all. And if he slept with a pro once a week, it cost him—what, fifty grand or so a year. Compare that to what a wife cost. Or even a high-maintenance girlfriend.
Also key is Ace Strain, a psychiatrist and the proprietor of Exodus Cryonics in Colorado. Perhaps due to the fact that Childs is himself a surgeon, the medical details of the book – even the more outlandish ones – feel especially tangible.
The relentless action alone is probably enough to propel most readers through the various plot switchbacks in The Boys of the Dixie Pig. But should you find yourself wishing this multi-dimensional puzzle would solve itself early, do press on. The pacing only gets faster, the body count higher, and the dark comedy funnier. What’s particularly admirable is that Childs keeps adding layers throughout the book, and yet still manages to bring the whole insane affair to a satisfying conclusion.