by Lillian O’Neill
A clever, comical, and eccentric anti-hero story.
Troy Henderson’s debut novel Head Grenade explores themes of self-worth, friendship, and family through a witty narratorial voice. Henderson seamlessly blends genres of crime, romance, comedy, and absurdism.
Set in Brisbane, the novel follows protagonist Manny Ellison as he tries to navigate his newly mediocre life – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A child of an ambitious scientist, Manny is the only living survivor of a discontinued government exploration into creating a self-healing human race.
A rich cast full of Brisbane’s outcasts.
Throughout the story, Henderson introduces a complex cast made up of Brisbane’s outcasts. Elvis, the stoner best friend whose artistic endeavours reveal more than what meets the eye. Mila the mysterious love interest, who is living with a condition which prohibits her from feeling anything. And Sue, the crazy doomsday-prepping aunt, who is the only family that Manny has left.
All the characters vastly vary from each other within the story; this evidently offers many intricate relationships between characters, as well as Manny’s internal relationship with himself.
A familiar setting.
The novel references a lot of well-known Brisbane locations, which, as a Brisbanite myself, creates a deeper connection to the storyline. As a reader, we get to witness the crazy happenings of hospital life, see the local parks – loved for their serenity – destroyed, and learn that innocent venues are hiding gang-affiliated secrets. All this is purely created for the novel – or is it?
As I was reading the book, I found myself constantly questioning, ‘what the?…’ And even now I still find it hilarious to think about some of the lines Henderson created
Manny often finds himself in questionable situations, which conclusively only adds to the charm of this novel. While the novel evidently tackles more serious themes throughout its entirety, such as Manny’s self-worth, which also bleeds into his love life, it is ultimately Henderson’s genre-bending narratorial voice that makes this book stand out. The reader is cast into a novel packed with crime, romance, and comedy, but really, I think these are all sub-genres within this absurdist novel.
Henderson’s real-world experience.
Head Grenade is full of pop-culture references, which makes Henderson’s writing feel knowledgeable; his experiences within the Brisbane music scene at a younger age, now, clearly inform his writing career.
This results in a fully-fleshed-out storyline with many aspects that almost anyone could relate to. This is a novel that is going to hit the Australian book market by storm – a must read for fiction readers looking for a fresh voice and a fresh story.