Toyols ‘R’ Us by Terence Toh
Toyols ‘R’ Us
By Terence Toh
Published by Fixi Novo (2021)
I have never read a Fixi novel before, but the title (and cover design) of this book is just too catchy to ignore. And so I ended up buying Toyols ‘R’ Us – my first ever Fixi book – with my mind initially thinking it might be some kind of horror-comedy novel. As I mentioned before, I have never read a Fixi novel and thus am not clear about what to expect from this indie novel publisher.
I soon learnt that within this 249-pages novel, all the ugly realities about the Malaysian people were bared to readers in a most unapologetic manner: corrupted politicians and the peoples of power, working-class people who slaved through their lives trying to make ends meet, greed and materialism, lazy people who wanted to be rich the easiest way, abusive internet user... in short, the book contains all the negative ingredients you always find in the daily news (or the social media).
But clearly, the main idea of this novel is to voice out about women’s rights, particularly those who got pregnant out of wedlock (more about this later).
Toyols ‘R’ Us was a covert company specializing in manufacturing toyols – the hideous infant-like creature whose traditional purpose was to steal and bring riches to its owner. Toyols ‘R’ Us mass-produced toyols and tailor-made them to suit various purposes, including being a personal helper, to be kept as a pet (or “show-toyols”), or to guard its owner’s personal safety, amongst others. Even though it is well-known that most people uses toyol to steal, the company turned a blind eye to that fact, insisting that they have no responsibility over what their customers wanted the toyol to do.
The shady business was professional on the surface, complete with their own R&D team, a showroom displaying all the types of toyol available, good customer service, as well as attractive promotions and marketing tactics (free umbrella!).
Deep down, the company only prioritized making money out of the business: they charged a hefty sum for every toyol sold (the company argued that the buyer was going to get much more money from their toyol anyway, so consider it a type of “investment”). And they also exploited women to get the foetuses for creating the toyols: they took foetuses from women who wanted to get rid of their pregnancy, and the latter would be paid with [a very small sum] money. Some of the company’s staff were even engaged in casual sex for the purpose of creating a baby which will be turned into a toyol.
Their business went well for years, until some of their sold toyols began to go berserk and killed their owners. The founder of Toyols ‘R’ Us, Lewis Gnanasegaran, had no idea what was happening until two police officers arrived at his doorstep for questioning.
Inspector Khairul Munawir was jaded when he was tasked to investigate several mysterious killings around Kuala Lumpur in which the victims’ toe thumb were gruesomely severed and their bodies completely drained of blood. He was baffled and clueless about what had really happened and who could possibly be the serial killer.
One night, at yet another murder location, Khairul encountered the stiff and robot-like Detective Fara Astaka, who introduced herself as a police from a very special branch – The Occult Investigation Unit. The unit was, of course, non-existent in PDRM, because the special police force Fara worked for was actually under the purview of the magic practitioners. The magical community had their own societal system, but they still co-lived with the non-magic (“biasa”) people. Basically, the magic-non-magic concept in this novel was similar to Harry Potter’s magical people and the Muggles.
When Khairul found Fara, he was finally enlightened about the mysterious killings: all the victims had somehow been killed by their own toyols, and specifically, toyols which had been bought from the company Toyols ‘R’ Us.
Conscious with the fact that killing was not natural for a toyol, Khairul and Fara then paid a visit to Toyols ‘R’ Us to get more information on the matter.
Lewis was upset when he learnt that someone had been tampering with his toyols to make them bloodthirsty. The staff at Toyols ‘R’ Us then began to suspect the head of the R&D division, Vellu, as having something to do with the incidents. Vellu had been absent from office for around a month, and he had apparently just went MIA.
Khairul and Fara eventually managed to trace Vellu, who was not being cooperative and even released his own vicious toyol to attack Khairul and Fara. The two police personnel managed to escape the toyol and called for enforcement to arrest Vellu.
While in detention, Vellu finally opened up to Khairul and Fara. He liked to gamble but almost always lost it. As a result, he had gotten into trouble with several ah longs whom he had borrowed from. And the reason for his disappearance from work was because he had to lay low in order to avoid the ah longs. Vellu had no reason to sabotage Toyols ‘R’ Us, although he did hate the snotty and stingy Lewis.
But when told about the company’s toyols suspected of being enchanted by a third party and turning into bloodthirsty killers, Vellu was horrified. He then remembered meeting a strange man who was interested to know more about toyols. Vellu, drunk at the time, had told the man everything, including the existence of Toyols ‘R’ Us and also the spells used to manipulate the toyols.
Khairul and Fara immediately assumed the man whom Vellu had talked with was the real culprit behind all the gruesome toyol manipulations. Vellu did not know his name, but based on description – and luckily, the man had distinct physical features – Khairul managed to pick up the right man based on the police database.
The suspect was a Ignatius Hutch, a half-Chinese, half-American man who claimed to be a devout Christian, albeit holding a very extremist point of view. Further investigation revealed that Ignatius and his uncle, the Reverend Hutch, held an anti-women stance, where women were viewed as nothing more than dirt. They were also Pro-Life, where they opposed to any kind of abortion of pregnancies. And hence Ignatius’ interest in toyols, which were created from aborted foetuses.
Khairul and Fara then found one of Ignatius’ sermons text on the internet, and it became clear that Ignatius was not only out to destroy those who used the toyols for their own greed, but also the party which was responsible to create such creatures!
Initially Khairul and Fara tried to stop Ignatius in person, but he was an unrelenting opponent. He made use of several toyols which he had tampered with to launch an attack on both police personnel. And one of the toyols had managed to steal Khairul’s phone, which was then retrieved by Ignatius.
To Ignatius’ delight, Khairul had saved the location of Toyols ‘R’ Us in that stolen phone, and that had enabled Ignatius to finally identify the location of the company (Toyols ‘R’ Us operated covertly and its actual location was not publicly known).
Ignatius then advanced on the company, killing or injuring anyone within his sight with a gun he had illegally procured.
The police arrived at Toyols ‘R’ Us to help disarm Ignatius, but he had, fortunately, ended his own life when he lost his way in the building and entered a sewer where ‘reject’ products were thrown away. The company’s failed experiments had produced the ugliest and most ferocious toyols and they had been thrown away into a sewer where nobody wants to enter. When Ignatius got into the sewer, he practically ended up as food for the toyols.
Toyols ‘R’ Us were disbanded soon after, and most of the remaining staffs were taken into employment by multi-millionaire Datin Viola, who kept dozens of toyols as pets as well as servants. Meanwhile, Lewis went undercover and secretly set up another toyol-production company...
MY PERSONAL RANTS
I had been avoiding reading the newspaper / watching the news / scrolling through social media which discusses local issues – for some years now, because all the negativity had actually affected my emotional and mental health. But I was unfortunately trapped into reading 249-pages of negativity and hatred, when I had chosen to read Toyols ‘R’ Us.
All in all, I felt a combination of love and hate for this book: I love the storyline, but I don’t really get along well with some of the messages being conveyed. But alas! This novel is, after all, published by Fixi: an indie publications whose main target audience are the hipsters. And I’m no hipster.
I welcomed the novel’s criticism of greedy, materialistic people. I also have no problems with the author taking a swipe at former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib and his wife (although, politics is something I hated to discuss or hear anything about). In fact, some incidences in this novel were suspiciously similar to the scenes prior to Malaysia’s 14th General Election.
I had some reservations about the writer’s portrayal of religious zealots, though. Ignatius Hutch and his uncle could have been an overly-fanatical Pro-Life activist, instead of a Christian preacher or someone who called themselves the people of God. Alternatively they could be someone from a deviant faraway sect instead of from a specific religion.
I have read a few Christian fiction which featured manipulative bishops and evil abbots, but their wicked presence were countered by the existence of genuine people of God in the storyline, who truly preached compassion and humanity.
On the other hand, all the characters in Toyols 'R' Us were unreligious, except for Ignatius – who, unfortunately, was the baddest of them all – and his actions had put religion in a bad light, with no counter-balancing element. There had also been a slight mention of Ismail’s father as a hardcore Islamist imam, and the way he was described was clearly mocking in manner.
Of course, I cannot read through the writer’s real intentions of portraying a religious extremist as the most evil guy in the story; I can just hope that he was actually taking a jibe at those who uses religion to advance their own ulterior motives (these people were better known as “penunggang agama”) and not really trying to demonise religion in general.
I also draw the line at portraying EVERY single woman who got pregnant out of wedlock – regardless of her circumstances – as a ‘victim’. Yes, someone who was raped or forced against her will was clearly a victim. Someone who was having unprotected sex unconsciously – without any knowledge or information of what may be the outcome of her actions – may be considered a victim. But a woman who participated willingly and consciously in unprotected sex was not a total victim. There are some idioms to go with this situation, such as, playing with fire. Even we Malaysians have our own saying, “Berani buat, berani tanggung!”
Of course, unwed mothers who were lost should be helped, but supporting them should not simply mean putting the blame on everyone else. Don’t just merely blame the man for being irresponsible, don’t just merely blame the society for having a negative stigma, and don’t just merely blame the system for not being supportive enough: what about the woman who had willingly and knowingly agreed to participate in the making of the baby? Can this type also be considered a victim or an innocent even though it had been her own choice? This novel considered the answer as “yes”, apparently.
In my opinion, Jing was not a victim. She was a grown-up girl, and a bright college student at that. She lived in the city, and she had a smartphone, where she obviously had access to all information about human reproduction through the internet. She was not some type of kampung or naive girls who really have no idea about unprotected sex. Jing clearly had a choice! Yet she still consented to unprotected sex with her boyfriend, and when she got pregnant and had nowhere to turn to, she was suddenly upgraded to the level of saint and portrayed like she had been victimised.
For me, the real victims in the novel, which I truly sympathised with, were actually the toyols themselves: most of them were unwanted by their parents, but were carelessly mass-produced and then sold like slaves to be exploited for money-making purposes.
Character-wise, Toyols ‘R’ Us is the kind of story where you won’t mind if everyone got killed at the end. It was as if all the characters were created not to be loved anyway.
The main protagonist, Inspector Khairul was funny, but he was also plain and boring. Biasa. He was just not my type of hero, probably because he always lost out to Fara. And Fara was too aloof and unhuman to like. Meanwhile, the idiotic Ismail and his bitch of a wife, Putri were particularly loathsome. Harun looked like someone who had just popped out from a very bad Malay drama. Jing's love for her toyol was endearing, but she was too confused and forlorn to be loved. And I don’t know if anyone would be able to like the resentful Munira, who only saw the bad in everyone else except her beloved Jing (love begets love, and hate begets hate, alright?).
The only comic moments in this novel were those involving the eccentric and overly-sexed Datin Viola, and also the host of expletives coming from Vellu when he was being interrogated.
Unpleasant theme and unlovable characters aside, Toyols ‘R’ Us was nevertheless an intriguing read; I was glued to the pages and not being able to predict whatever will happen next. I think this novel could make a good horror film. The scenes of the toyol attacks were frightening enough; I was imagining something similar to the gruesome attacks in Critters or Gremlins! *shudder*
Hehehe.... this novel sounds interesting. Plus, I like the cover too. Good review.ReplyDelete
Thank you! Yes, the story is interesting indeed. It could be a good film if anyone would dare to adapt it into a movie. Hehehe 😁Delete