Title: Mean Martin Manning
Author: Scott Stein
Available: Directly from publisher
Once I started reading this book, I couldn't stop. It's a sly and humorous sendup of the nanny state. At the center of the bureaucratic good intentions (and a road to hell) is Mean Martin Manning, a recluse who simply wants to be left alone.
Martin is unabashed about his isolation and the fact that he really doesn't like people. He tolerated them for years only because he must, and even then with little to no civility. He then “retired” to his small apartment, where he enjoyed watching television, collecting frog figurines, eating whatever he pleased and wearing only a bathrobe. Why not? He wasn't going anywhere!
Underlying the humor and Martin's indignation at being dragged out of his happy state is a cautious warning about what happens when government starts deciding what's best for everyone and the hypocrisy behind nannyism. In Martin's case, the government has decided that he is not “becoming,” that he has not fulfilled his potential as a human being – and the government, in the form of a determined Ms. Alice Pitney, is going to see to it that Martin “becomes.” You'll gasp at the number of rights that get violated as Martin goes through the system and is found in need of reform. Then, you'll start to wonder how thin or how wide the line is that divides us from Martin.
You have to love that Martin is determined not to play the game, even if he is under Ms. Pitney's control. He's steadfast in his meanness and his desire to just be left alone. Other, weaker characters give in to the onslaught of retraining, even embracing it. Not Martin! He's a sly character and always looking for a way out from under Ms. Pitney's control. I about cried when Martin was targeted on a national television show (any more and I'd give away too much information). It was the height of meanness, not by Martin, but by Ms. Pitney and her minions.
I did feel the ending was a bit weak, as though the author didn't quite know how to end it. In fact, I wasn't quite sure I had reached the end. I was reading this as a PDF file in Stanza on my iPhone and it's not the best format; it kind of jumps around. I kept thinking I really hadn't reached the end, just the e-book format was being difficult. But no – I had reached the end!
Definitely a book I can recommend. It's not just a story about Mean Martin Manning – it's a cautionary tale about overreaching bureaucracy and the rights we really need to vigilantly defend.