The Hundred Brothers is quite a departure for Antrim, having written two novels with plots that you can actually follow—The Verificationist and Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World. I loved both novels, which had gritty and unnerving story lines, but the narrative style of The Hundred Brothers is one that needs getting used to.
For one, this novel is quite surreal and very post-modern. There's absolutely no explanation as to why and how the 100 brothers came to be; they just are. Also, the story just flows in one smooth arc. There are no chapters, not even paragraph breaks to denote distinct divisions in the story. There's one brother named Doug who Antrim uses to drive the novel forward.
Now the word "forward" may be pushing it a little bit, for the story somehow feels that everything is going in tangents. One moment we see two brothers innocuously perusing the journals in the library, the next we see another set of brothers engaged in fights. Everything's in an ordered chaos. Lots of slapstick thrown around, once again showing Antrim's gift of wry humor. Madness seems to be the order of the day.
Antrim doesn't make it a point to let all 100 brothers figure into his story. But he does name all of them. I didn't actually count, but all those names rattled one after another feel like being assaulted by 100 bullets. There are a few who stand out: Doug of course, Barry the doctor, 93-year-old Hiram, and Maxwell the cataleptic botanist, to name a few.
So how does it all end? Well, with a ritual sacrifice of one of the brothers. Ah, trademark Antrim. Of course there has to be a violent scene to cap off all that outrageous tableau.
Read this book if:
- You like post-modern novels.
- You know the feeling of having way too many family members.
- You'll read anything by Donald Antrim.