the author directs an insightful and sympathetic eye toward culture and custom among this tribe, with richly observed and at times laugh-out-loud glimpses of a generation that some of us, more demographically remote, find difficult to get a handle on. He also guides us with wit and charm among the outliers — parents, siblings, employers, cops — who, in a way, unwittingly cushion his millennials along their rutty byways and detours. If we appreciate how very well he writes, Mike Roberts rates as more than just a clever chronicler of 20-something mores. He’s an author from whom we should expect important work in years to come.
Much of the novel is like this — a series of events in which the protagonist outruns any real consequences. Perhaps it’s the irrepressible confidence of the young; they believe any bad decision can be undone...It’s Roberts’s gimlet-eyed attention to Mike’s selfishness that allows the character to become fully realized, the kind of guy who might careen drunkenly off the pages and into your bushes on his bike ... Personally, I could listen to this voice all day. It’s as if it belongs to a friend I grew up with, or someone I met at a bar, or found counting lampposts in my hometown — strangely familiar and wise beyond his years.
There are also points, typically reserved for final paragraphs a la Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, where Mike staggers briefly into worlds of genuine transcendence, revealing in his wounded palms some objective treasure pilfered from the drunken tombs ... There are flaws, however. First of all, Roberts’s musings can be overexplained and exhausting...He can also be snotty in a way that reads more vengeful than humorous ... All the drinking, fighting, and sleeping around are great fun for a while. But eventually, Roberts’s treatment of Mike’s frivolity, simultaneously serious and winking, grows tiresome. For me, this happened around the hundredth page. Here, I began to write off Cannibals in Love as a charming beach read for educated post-punks.