The brand-new novel from the author of Lucky Bastard and Breathers—“one of today’s very best writers” (Jonathan Maberry).
Does your lifestyle not fit the person inside you? Then try someone else on for size!
Call him whatever. Call him whomever. He can be any legally authorized fictional character or dead celebrity he wants for six to eight hours, simply by injecting a DNA-laced cocktail into his brain stem. It’s called Big Egos and it’s the ultimate role-playing fantasy from Engineering Genetics Organization and Systems (aka EGOS.) And, as one of the quality controllers for EGOS, he’s the ultimate ego-tripper, taking on more artificial identities than advisable—and having a hell of a time doing it. Problem is, he’s starting to lose the ability to separate fact from fiction. His every fantasy is the new reality. And the more roles he plays, the less of him remains. Sure, it’s dangerous. Yes, he’s probably losing his mind. Okay, hundreds of others could be at risk. But sometimes who you are isn’t good enough. And the truth is, reality is so overrated. . . .
With his insightful wit, smart humor, and electrifying narrative, acclaimed author S. G. Browne takes readers on a satirical and provocative trip into the not-too-distant future, where, for some, pretending to be someone you’re not is just another day at the office.
Big Egos CHAPTER 1 I’m at another party, this one in a Beverly Hills brick Colonial Revival mansion just off Wilshire Boulevard. It’s not exactly Graceland and this sure as hell ain’t Memphis, but I have to remember that I didn’t come here to indulge my own fantasies.
It’s a select crowd, lots of familiar faces and everyone wants to shake my hand. I get stopped by Dick Clark, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Liberace, and Starsky and Hutch, among others. Fairly white-bread gathering, though I run into Richard Pryor every now and then, so chances are he’ll make an appearance.
The party is a typical L.A. gathering, lots of pretty faces and everyone looking around to see who else there is to see. The DJ is playing seventies-era Top 40 and disco that everyone’s heard on the radio at one time or another. I think about suggesting he spin “Jailhouse Rock” or “Hound Dog” instead, but I don’t want to get too self-absorbed. It’s bad form.
I wander through the house, offering an occasional smile and a wave and a “thank you very much” as I check out the other guests. Bruce Lee is hitting on Hot Lips Houlihan. Evel Knievel is attempting to jump over half a dozen of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Daisy Duke and Farrah Fawcett are comparing their breasts while Andy Kaufman officiates.
A huge banquet table of catered food sits in the middle of the dining room. Cher and Deborah Harry, both apparently high on devil weed, are scarfing down petits fours, while John Belushi sculpts the pâté into the shape of a penis. Fonzie sits in his trademark leather jacket near the head of the table, alternately eating from a tray of puff pastries and sucking on a half-smoked joint. He looks at me and says, “Nice lamb chops,” then laughs. He has crumbs and a yellow stain down the front of his white T-shirt.
I’m tempted to bring up the whole “jumping the shark” thing but my momma always taught me to take the high road, so I just smile and keep my thoughts to myself.
Belushi offers me some of his artwork on a cracker but I decline. Maybe if they had a platter of Twinkies or some deep-fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches I’d reconsider, but I didn’t come here to indulge The King’s appetite. At least not for food.
Deborah Harry breaks into a rendition of “It’s Now or Never” as Cher stuffs another petit four into her mouth and laughs, spraying food across the table. Cher and Blondie don’t belong here, at least not legally since they’re both still alive, but neither one of them appears to be in any kind of distress, so I let it slide.
I walk up to Blondie, tenderly brush the hair off her forehead, ask her if she’s lonesome tonight, then give her a kiss that distracts Belushi from his pâté sculpture. When Blondie’s knees buckle, I catch her and lower her into a chair, then turn and walk into the kitchen.
Joey Ramone and Sid Vicious are doing shots of tequila while Andy Warhol raids the refrigerator, which looks more like a walk-in closet than a Frigidaire. I reach past Warhol and grab two bottles of Coors, then wander down the hall and head upstairs.
The mansion has half a dozen bedrooms, each of them bigger than my own and half of them occupied. In one bedroom, I find Vinnie Barbarino getting stoned with George Carlin and Freddie Mercury. In another room, Rocky Balboa is having sex with Annie Hall. Finally, in the last room, a bedroom so enormous I could park both of my cars and still have enough space to stage Jesus Christ Superstar, I find who I’ve been looking for.
David Cassidy stands naked in front of a full-length mirror singing “I Think I Love You.” His head is shaved, along with most of the rest of his body—his hair in a pile on the hardwood floor at his feet. He still has his pubic hair and his eyebrows, but he removes the eyebrows in the time it takes me to uncap the bottles of Coors.
“That’s an interesting look,” I say.
He turns away from the mirror and regards me with catatonic indifference.
“Are you from the party?” he asks.
I assure him that I am.
He eyes the two beers I’m holding in my right hand and asks if he can have one. I figured he’d be thirsty, so I hand him a bottle. As he tilts his head back and starts to drink, I remove a single liquid-filled capsule from my pocket and drop it into my own beer. The capsule dissolves within seconds.
He finishes his beer and drops the bottle, then wipes a distracted hand across his mouth. “I was thirsty,” he says.
I offer him my beer. He takes it without a word and drinks it down in half a dozen gulps. When he drops the bottle, it shatters on the hardwood floor.
“How about I find us a couple more brews,” I say.
“Okay,” he says, then turns to the mirror and starts to shave his pubic hair as he breaks into The Partridge Family theme song.
Come on get happy.
I walk out of the room and close the door behind me, then I find the nearest bathroom to take care of business. Out of vanity and because it still gives me the giggles, I check my reflection in the mirror. The sideburns and hair are mine. The white jumpsuit and glasses came from a vintage clothing store. I look enough like Elvis to have groupies. I walk like him. I talk like him. Hell, if someone brought out a karaoke machine I could probably even sing like him. And as far as the other guests at the party are concerned, I am The King.
Which is all that really matters.
Perception is reality.
And after taking care of business with David Cassidy, my reality has a yearning for some hanky-panky.
I check my reflection in the mirror one more time, then I walk back down the hallway toward the dining room to see if I can interest Deborah Harry in some burnin’ love.
S.G. Browne is the author of Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, Breathers, Fated, and the Breathers novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus, as well as the ebook collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. He lives in San Francisco. Follow the author on Twitter and Facebook, or visit SGBrowne.com.
“Browne’s gifts are manifold, and his combination of witty conceptual twists and fast-paced plot and narration are unique…A smart and darkly funny thriller that looks at America’s obsession with celebrity through a truly skewed lens…Razor sharp.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Browne juxtapose[s] pairs of unlikely personas for dark comic effect…A sobering parable of people who don’t want to be themselves.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Fantasy and reality blur in this satirical takedown of celebrity culture.”
– New York Post
PRAISE FOR LUCKY BASTARD:
"Wickedly sharp and wildly entertaining. S.G. Browne is one of today's very best writers." —New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry
"Springboarding off a traditional noir framework, Browne delivers an insightful, intriguing tale....With twists aplenty, this fast-paced adventure succeeds as both a hard-boiled homage and a paranormal romp." —Publishers Weekly (starred review & Pick of the Week)
"Browne hits the funny bone hard....Smartly constructed fiction...that sets it apart from the crowd." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Full of witty writing and hilarious adventures...I laughed out loud many times. Read the book: it will be your good fortune." —New York Times bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson
"Lucky Bastard is wonderful San Francisco noir, full of humor, irony, hot women, and cranial trauma. What more could you ask for in a book? The titular bastard may be in for a very bad day, but Browne's readers are the lucky ones." —New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden
"A very clever novel....Nick [Monday] is a likable narrator...and the story’s lightly noirish feel gives the proceedings an evocatively gritty texture. This one will appeal equally to readers of mysteries and fantasies." —Booklist