Occupant #3

Kevin Moccia

Publisher: iUniverse Pages: 284 Price: (paperback) $20.99 ISBN: 9781663241290 Reviewed: July, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

Kevin Moccia’s Occupant #3 is a literary novel defying conventional classification. By turns science fiction, satire, dark comedy, dystopia, and talking animal fable, it’s an ambitious experiment with remarkable style that delivers standout moments in an often-muddled story.

Clarence Clay, accompanied by his faithful dog Zorro, is on a dangerous mission. Blessed with a powerful immune system that may have helped him survive the ugliness of war, he’s now putting it to the test: If he and Zorro survive a 90-day study interned in a big pharma colony infested with manufactured super viruses, he’ll make a lot of money. But if they are to outlive the other moribund test subjects, they’ll need all the help they can get. Fortunately, they’re aided by Clarence’s war buddy, a motley group of colony natives (mostly children, one a telepath), and Zorro’s would-be rescuers, farm animals featured in Moccia’s previous book.

The plot is both more complicated and vague than the above description can capture. Moccia is a gifted writer of dialogue and subtext, with even the briefest interactions suggesting a rich, intriguing world just beyond the page. But readers would be forgiven for wanting to see more of that subtext brought to the surface and characters’ motives and histories more fully explored. Moccia’s muscular prose can’t compensate for a nebulous story, and too often his poetry comes at the cost of clarity. Clarence feels incomplete, the chapters featuring the animals’ lengthy conversations are a jarring disruption, and the culminating moments feel more like the entropy of a plot winding down than a significant denouement.

Occupant #3 is billed as a standalone novel that flows from the author’s earlier work; it’s possible that familiarity with the previous novel might enhance the reader’s appreciation for this one. But judged on its own merits, Occupant #3 is just too unformed to fully capitalize on Moccia’s talents.

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