Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Title: Spending Spree
Author: Ryan Wiley
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 230

It’s everyone’s fantasy come true.

What if your bank account magically replenished itself no matter how much you spent? Would you go on a spending spree? Or would you restrain yourself, afraid of undeserved good fortune?

That is the dilemma faced by Johnny Davis, the protagonist of Spending Spree by Ryan Wiley. An IT graduate who works in a plastics factory, he opens an account in a local bank, with $150 transferred from his parents’ checking account serving as the opening balance.

Chosen for his “long-standing and impeccable service with us,” he is selected to receive a Black card, a debit card, which entitles him to 0% Intro APR, no annual fees or foreign transaction fees, and most important, “unlimited cashback that doesn’t expire.” So excited is Johnny that he doesn’t bother about the “Terms and Restrictions apply” posted in “impossible-to-read font.”

When he opens his account online, he learns the giddying truth that he has $100,000 in his account, with “Today’s Beginning Balance” at $150 and the remainder listed as pending transactions.

Anxious to try out the card, he spends $1.40 on liquor, and a little more on take-out dinner. Soon he learns that no matter how much he spends in a day, the money, all $100,000 of it, is magically replenished in his account the next morning.

Delighted with the unexpected good luck, Johnny and Dave, his best friend, take time off from work and head to Las Vegas to live the good life. Each night is more luxurious than the night before. The whole wine, women and song routine played up to the hilt. Soon Johnny becomes aware that somebody is watching and following them.

While in Vegas, they get mugged and the black card is stolen. When they get back to the hotel room through Dave’s persuasive charms, Johnny opens the safe to find a severed hand in it, with a note saying that it belonged to the guy who had taken Johnny’s wallet.

And then Johnny gets annoying messages saying it will all end tonight and everything will be the same as before. Even so, they head to Cancun, Mexico, wishing to enjoy themselves one last time before their luck turns. And it does. 

The bad guys catch up with the best buddies, and they discover just what kind of mess they have allowed themselves to get into.

In the first few chapters, you wonder why Wiley chose to make this a first person account. Johnny’s life isn’t at all interesting. He is a 25-year-old who looks more than a decade older. He comes across as a loser in more ways than one, and not just because he lives with his parents. His whole attitude reeks of laziness, of being happy with the status quo, spending time doing nothing but gaming and having a best friend, Dave, who is equally aimless in life. Also, early on, his much younger girlfriend, Ashley, breaks up with him.

In many ways, Johnny is annoyingly naïve. He is a guy who hasn’t changed his password since he first started using the Internet. His password to the room safe is 1234.

To make matters worse, Johnny is the kind of guy who isn’t too gung-ho about bathing, shaving or brushing his teeth. Fortunately, as long as he’s on paper, you don’t have to be offended by the stink.

And so, you find yourself becoming involved with his story.

There is something about the guy. His willingness to not take himself too seriously, perhaps. You find your attitude begin to thaw just a little bit. His self-deprecatory brand of humour also helps. Unwilling to face the question of his loneliness after Ashley breaks up with him and whether he should try to get her back, he decides to concentrate on killing zombies on Black Ops. The thought of playing or watching golf makes him want to paper cut his eyeballs.

The other character who holds prominence in the book is Dave, the kind of guy who has an answer to every problem. A charmer, he is at ease in any situation, able to talk with confidence or fake it with bravado.

Other than Dave, none of the other characters make a mark. Johnny’s mother plays a major role in his life, but not so much in the book; the father has no role beyond being Old Purple Face. And Mark, the guy who opens Johnny’s account, stands out slightly for the mysterious nature of his position vis-à-vis the bank.

The language isn’t the best of course, and the dialogues bits tend to get strained and monotonous at times. The conversation between Ashley and Johnny at the time of the breakup is an example.

There are some bits of sexual content which are in bad taste, and the conversation isn’t the most profound one can imagine. But I guess some guys talk like that. There is a lot of talk about body parts that should have been edited out.

In fact, tighter editing would have helped weed out some excessively done parts as well as some grammatical and spelling errors.

Strains of the book remind you of the film, The Hangover, mostly because of the Vegas setting.

While the book is good enough to read if you want something that doesn’t tax your mind, I think that Wiley should have put in a little more effort into building up the moral element of the story. Johnny’s sense of ethics is sufficiently strong enough for him to realize that he is doing something wrong, and that it will catch up with him eventually. And yet fuelled by that piece of black plastic, he and Dave drive themselves on, desperate to have a good time while they can.

I was also disappointed with the way the story ended. I found it too pat and dry.

Wild and fantastical as the premise was, I had been attracted to the fantasy of having so much that one could never be able to spend it all. I was curious to know how it was going to end.

A little more philosophical thinking about how the dream ended for Johnny would have been better, instead of what Wiley actually put down in the Epilogue.

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