Bad Choices Make Good Stories

Bad Choices Make Good Stories

Going to New York (How The Great American Opioid Epidemic of The 21st Century Began)

Non-Fiction - Memoir
199 Pages
Reviewed on 10/01/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

What a refreshing change! A writer who tells it like it is, who is honest and raw and lets you know from the word go, and not in terms as polite as this, that if you don’t like his choice of words, you can go…well, you know…read something else! Yes, that’s the approach Oliver Markus Malloy takes in Bad Choices Make Good Stories, and it may indeed turn more genteel readers off immediately. But it’s also very clever, as Malloy isn’t afraid to state. Is he smug? No, but it’s what he would call good marketing as he knows the majority of readers are going to be curious enough about chapter headings like “Prostitution” and “Sex and Crime” to read on a bit further. And those who do will be rewarded with a read that is, at times, highly entertaining and enlightening.

Bad Choices Make Good Stories is a memoir. Readers meet Oliver Markus Malloy as a teen in Germany where he excels at hacking video games and eventually moves on to more lucrative pursuits. When his internet gaming hobbies put him in touch with an American woman, Donna, whom he eventually marries, his life, now in the US, yo-yos between being jobless and gainfully employed. But Oliver is remarkably intelligent and very talented in various areas and folks are willing to pay him for those talents. Bit by bit he becomes incredibly wealthy. All would be well, but the richer he becomes, the more impoverished and unsatisfying his love life, thanks to his decidedly poor taste in women. He’s a good guy: he doesn’t use women. But they use him, and none more than the ones he cares for most. Sometimes you wonder how someone so smart can be so stupid, all of which makes him quite lovable.

There is no doubt that Bad Choices Make Good Stories is, at times, a pretty hard read because of the explicitly described sex. But that explicitness, though occasionally rather obnoxious, is not at all titillating. It’s there to make a point, and succeeds in doing so. And while Bad Choices Make Good Stories is a memoir, it’s also the author’s chance to present his philosophies on social issues, the differences between European and American culture, religion and much more. Readers will find themselves fascinated by what he thinks and what they learn, and might even find themselves agreeing with him on certain subjects: the chapter titled “There is no God” had this reviewer wanting to shout “touche” too many times to mention. So, bottom line? Read Bad Choices Make Good Stories by Oliver Markus Malloy if you’re not afraid of being a little shocked from time to time while learning lots about the not so pretty sides of life in the US. Entertaining, refreshing, unsettling and absorbing, and surprisingly perhaps, a thinking person’s book.

Jack Magnus

Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Going to New York (How The Great American Opioid Epidemic of The 21st Century Began) is a nonfiction memoir written by Oliver Markus Malloy. Hacking came naturally to the author, who was a teen living in Germany with his family when the digital revolution was in its early phases. His goal wasn’t to find ways into government or industrial websites, however; he simply wanted to remove the copy protection from the video games he’d purchase, so he could share them with his friends. They called it “cracking” the game, and kids like him quickly established networks of like-minded individuals who shared their games with those who, in all likelihood, couldn’t have afforded to buy the games themselves. From there, Malloy began to have a following that spread throughout Germany and became an international name. Phone hacking was part of the process, and as the service became digital, the challenges meant, for a while, taking advantage of the fact that the US was somewhat behind Western Europe in digitizing telecommunications. Hackers were generally guys, as far as Malloy could see, with Donna in New York City being one of the rare exceptions. They began a phone correspondence on those hacked phone systems which became first a daily, then an all-day thing. Finally, his hacking having given Malloy some economic resources to rely on, he decided he would go to New York City and meet the woman he had fallen in love with from a distance.

Oliver Markus Malloy’s memoir is an entertaining and thought-provoking tale of one hacker’s search for love in a foreign country. I applauded Malloy’s courage in making that first transatlantic trip in his early twenties, and loved the description of his impromptu first, unannounced visit to Donna and the chaos that ensued. Malloy’s memoir proves the adage that the path to love is strewn with difficulties as he finds himself bullied and terrorized by his agoraphobic girlfriend and later taken advantage of by a succession of unfortunate new love interests. His rueful realization that his earlier romanticized view of the fallen young woman in a novel, whose addiction had made her a victim, is somewhat removed from the reality of addictive behavior, and is made all-too-clear as he struggles to help an addicted girlfriend go straight. Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Going to New York (How The Great American Opioid Epidemic of The 21st Century Began) is intriguing and well-written, and it’s highly recommended.

Christian Sia

Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Going to New York (How the Great American Opioid Epidemic of the 21st Century Began) by Oliver Markus Malloy tells the story of an unusual love, featuring impassioned writing, and exploring the themes of love, the commercialization of sex, culture shock, and travel. Meet two young people from two different worlds getting connected online, indulging in kinky conversations and phone sex, and building up an intense interest in each other. Oliver is a teenage hacker from Germany while Donna is a New Yorker. When Oliver decides to surprise Donna with a visit, he is not prepared for what awaits him. Reality could be far different from the fantasies nurtured through phone conversations and online chatting.

This is an engaging story filled with compelling social commentaries, and readers will love Oliver Markus Malloy’s compelling observations on American sexual behavior. The writing is confident and the author doesn’t shy away from stating his opinions on the social issues facing contemporary America. I enjoyed the way the author weaves the different themes into the story, including long-term relationships, sex, family, and travel. Culture shock is one of the themes that come across neatly in the writing and it forms a great part of the author’s development of his characters. This is mature writing and the book cover already suggests that clearly. I found Bad Choices Make Good Stories: Going to New York (How the Great American Opioid Epidemic of the 21st Century Began) to be very interesting, confidently written, a memoir that makes the reader feel the author’s honesty through each gripping page.

Ray Simmons

First of all, this title is a mouthful: Bad Choices Make Good Stories, Going to New York. How the Great American Opioid Epidemic of the 21st Century Began. Let me say that it is appropriate though, and I can’t think of a shorter title that would be nearly as appropriate. Now, let me get straight to the point. This book is awesome. If you are holding the paperback, buy it. If you are looking at it on a site on your computer or phone, download it, buy it. What you are looking at is this generation’s version of Catcher in the Rye. I kid you not. It’s that good. It’s that real. It’s that true. The title says it all. For me, in my life, bad choices do indeed make great stories. I am in the process of trying to write some of them. I hope I can be as honest and literary as Oliver Markus Malloy.

The title, Bad Choices Make Good Stories, is the first thing that I liked about this book. I also liked the Going to New York part of the title. But only because I know that New York is a great place to make bad choices. In New York you can make epically bad choices…and come away with epically good stories. I like the characters in this book. I have no doubt that they are real. I have met different versions of them. I have no doubt that Oliver Markus Malloy portrayed them honestly and realistically. The writing rings with authenticity. This comes from a guy who has made his fair share of bad choices. If you like good writing, real characters with real problems, that are far removed from the typical drama you get in the sad entertainment choices we get today, read Oliver Markus Malloy.

Caitlin Lyle Farley

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and ultimately gain a better understanding of humanity in this entertaining memoir by Oliver Markus Malloy. Oliver was one of the first hackers in the early '90s, cracking games and distributing them free to others. From his home in Germany, he built an organisation that spanned the world, and that’s how he met Donna. He falls in love with her, despite the ocean between them, and the secret she hides. Oliver changes his mind about going to college in Germany and moves to New York instead. He and Donna marry, but times are hard. Donna is agoraphobic and Oliver struggles to get a job that pays enough to let them eat on a regular basis.

Bad Choices Make Good Stories is written in a straightforward style that works especially well when the story touches on the more technical details of the cyber world. It’s educational in that regard, but there’s also a strong emotive aspect to this memoir as Oliver Markus Malloy details the darkness that accompanies poverty, the trials of being in love with an abusive partner, and the heartbreaking hopelessness surrounding drug addiction. Malloy’s narrative occasionally meanders, but never strays from the point. These occasional tangents are always relevant to the current topic and usually reveal pertinent information. From beginning to end, this story is full of wise observations on American society and humanity in general. Bad Choices Make Good Stories is the most engaging memoir I’ve ever read.