● Stan the bacteria man appeared in the Oval Office on a gloomy Tuesday morning in late August.
● A wildly weird journey into the indeterminate future of this Great Nation full of 0.50-inch service weapon rounds.
He only wants to talk. The heavily armed humans only want to shoot.
Tale as old as time.
On the surface, gray goo gradually becomes warm skin. But underneath beats a heart of gold (or peanut butter, or ball bearings, or meat, as suits the occasion).
As confrontations with leaders, liaisons, and homicidal political donors escalate into hilarious farce, Stan the bacteria man asks a very human question:
Why am I the security threat around here?
Stan’s presence and mysterious motivation are certainly intriguing, and M.A. has playfully crafted the story and prose to match its protagonist’s singular perspective. The text regularly refers to characters’ “mouth holes” and “nose holes,” and many sentences are riddled with copyright symbols following the names of fictional products, such as the H&K Kinetic Killer Parametric Orbital Scanner. At times funny or revealing, these quirks grow distracting over the course of a narrative that defies traditional plotting.
Each chapter opens with the declaration “Stan the bacteria man had a very bacteria plan, that man,” and until the final chapters M.A. leaves it to readers to work out what exactly that plan might be, or why Stan continually manifests, interacts, and tries to make sense of our world before getting shot or melting into a puddle. Alienating by design, the story still offers some moments of welcome warmth. Perhaps the strongest comes when Stan encounters “Dog the sniffer dog” and curls up next to him in a kennel. Stan is able to recreate the scent of the dog’s mother, and the two share a sweet cuddle. This wacky novella has plenty of witty set pieces and curious mysteries but doesn’t take pains to invite readers to its quirky wavelength.
Takeaway: Experimental fiction that charges proudly and playfully into the strange.
Great for fans of: Cesar Aira, Charles Yu.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: C
In this satirical novelette, a strange man apparently made of bacteria frightens a country that doesn’t understand what he is.
Stan the bacteria man suddenly appears in the Oval Office, and the Secret Service deems him a Being of Unknown Origin. He takes on various humanoid forms, sometimes dripping an “unidentified fluid.” Considering him a threat, the Secret Service guns him down. But Stan merely turns into a puddle and later returns to the Oval Office only to be shot again. Finally, White House rep Veylet sits and talks with Stan at the Reflecting Pool. But Veylet, who uses they/them pronouns, doesn’t get the answers they want; Stan doesn’t seem to know where he’s from and randomly turns into puddles (even sans gunfire). Wherever he goes, Stan faces animosity from ignorant people who fear this unusual person. In Tennessee, xenophobic soy farmer Jim Bean spews curses and slurs at Stan and, convinced he’s an undocumented immigrant, tries to kill him. Though vague about what he’s up to (it involves “cooking”), Stan soon brings a special, more articulate, someone with him to Washington—so that the administration will fully understand his intention. M.A.’s brisk story is endlessly amusing. He employs repetition to great effect; characters persistently use their “mouth holes” for such simple acts as speaking and casual drinking. Several topical issues, like police brutality and immigration, are fodder for well-executed satire. Descriptions are scant save for Stan’s ever changing body. He even has pockets when he’s not a “slimy mass.” M.A.’s artistic renderings of Stan crop up throughout the novel. Despite this satire’s minimalist plot, there’s definitely resolution, at least regarding the likable titular character.
A short tale that absurdly and humorously tackles social issues.
Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite
"Stan the bacteria man had a very bacteria plan, that man." This recurring sentence in Stephen M. A.'s novelette Stan, Stan, the Bacteria Man summarizes better than anything else the plot of the entire book. But what is Stan the Bacteria Man's plan? And will he be successful in the end? You will find the answers by following Stan and the other characters (Veylet the human and Dog the sniffer dog) through the witty pages of this sci-fi political satire. The storyline will unfold in front of your eyes in one of the most enjoyable writing styles you can imagine.
Stan, Stan, the Bacteria Man is an entertaining read that will appeal to those who like to read political satire, but it will literally fascinate those that look for new ways of telling a story. Stephen M. A. reveals an unconventional and intriguing way of writing, but his style is perfect for presenting Stan the bacteria man in the most effective way. Everything in Stan, Stan, the Bacteria Man is unusual in the most positive way - which is to say that it is original. Not only are the plot and the way Stephen M. A. tells the story innovative from a literary point of view, but even smaller details such as the chapter numbering are elaborated in a way that befits Stan's adventures. For all these reasons, I recommend you not to miss this incredible novelette. It would be a pity.