By Sam Sacks
Wall Steet Journal
December 4th, 2015
unlikely gathering in J.J. Amaworo Wilson’s gonzo speculative novel
“Damnificados” (PM Press, 274 pages, $15.95) is of hundreds of mendicant
“nonpeople” who have occupied an abandoned skyscraper. The premise
comes from the amazing reports out of Caracas, Venezuela, of an
unfinished office tower taken over by squatters. But in Mr. Wilson’s
fantastical version, set in the invented slum of Faveleda, the poor are
as diverse and polyglot as the crew of Melville’s whaling ship: “A
salmagundi of every street dog that ever raised its nose and sniffed the
wind: the shoeshine boys, the hookers, the addicted and the lame. They
come in rags, burqas, combat pants, in patchwork suits and miniskirts.
Stetsons, pork pie hats, bowlers, beanies, turbans, pakols and patkas.”
The captain of this 60-story vessel is a soft-spoken man namedNacho Morales, crippled from a childhood illness, who helps the community set up schools and shops. Nacho’s greatest test arrives when the villainous businessman who owns the tower sends an army to reclaim it. Mr. Wilson, whose influences run from sci-fi toSteinbeck, tells his underdog story with lusty energy, filling it with all manner of portents and miracles, “like something out of the Bible,” as one onlooker exclaims. Here be two-headed wolves, megalithic crocodiles and life-saving dragonflies. And the final battle between the army and the unarmed but united damnificados is the stuff of legend.