Archive | December, 2014

Review: Armadillo Fists by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2011)

24 Dec

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Armadillo Fists has a non-linear structure but is still incredibly easy to follow. The concept is both bizarre and funny. I especially liked the ideas of “Dop”(doppelgänger) conventions, having living armadillos for hands, driving dinosaur-shaped cars, and a legless and armless character who, over the course of the book, became quite likable while remaining funny.

Armadillo Fists owes just a little bit to Reservoir Dogs (and Carlton Mellick III acknowledges his debt to Quentin Tarantino in the introduction, in addition to Neil Gaiman’s “urban fantasy” works (this seemed less apparent, although the only “urban fantasy” work of his I’ve read is Neverwhere)), but the influence is slight and does not detract from this work’s utter originality.

I did grow a bit bored during some of the sections of cartoonish violence, but Carlton Mellick III has a way of introducing consistent surprises and unexpected concepts to keep the pages turning and reader feeling both time and money were well spent.

Find out more about Carlton Mellick III’s work here.

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Review: The Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe (Eraserhead Press; 2013)

22 Dec

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Cinematic techniques and odes abound, although the language is sensory rich and visceral. Humiliation and degradation steam off every page.

It feels like we drift at the periphery of a great b-movie. Little details and tropes–Russ Meyer dialogue, throwaway phases like ‘hundred dollar handshake’, 70s exploitation film iconography and motifs, etc. This is not to say this novella is at all a hollow rip-off of any one b-movie or an unimaginative fanboy ode to such cinema; on the contrary, The Mondo Vixen Massacre is stylistically ambitious and unique.

The interesting thing about the New Bizarro Author Series is that almost none of the authors I’ve read so far fit into the bizarro mold completely; sure, there are lap-overs, shared themes, sensational titles, gaudy cover art, etc. Someone like Carlton Mellick III is such an excellent storyteller that one wishes some of the NBAS did fit more neatly into the bizarro mold. A few of the titles managed to be both aimless and formulaic. The Mondo Vixen Massacre is not one of those.

I took slight offense to Phil Spector being referred to as “pathetic.” We’ll have to see what music this author prizes. [Okay, Otis Redding and possibly grindcore. Not bad. ]

I notice a heavy Tarantino influence throughout, particularly during the hyperbolic fight scenes (beheadings, fire exploding from Vixen orifices, etc.). Yet then it gets more surreal, moving beyond the Tarantino realm, yet still retaining cinematic language (okay, obviously I know what a close-up, although I did pause to wonder what a “jiggle cut” might be).

The Mondo Vixen Massacre just gets wilder and loopier as the tale winds to its compact yet outrageous close.

Review: The Egg Man by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2008)

21 Dec

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This one can be read in a single enjoyable sitting. The image of the egg man is one I’ll not soon forget. The post-apocalyptic setting is similar to Crab Town–and, to a lesser extent, Warrior Wolf Women of The Wasteland–but the concept is completely different here.

Society has been divided into different classes based on sensory ability (smell, touch, sight, etc.). There is a palpable sense of dread in the day-to-day experiences of our doomed but all-too-human protagonist: his neighbors are unfriendly and secretive, except for a crude woman he caught giving birth to thousands of flies.

I read somewhere that Carlton Mellick III fully advocates following the heroic journey structure. I thought about this as I read this book. Despite its wacky premise and grotesque imagery, it is clear that Carlton Mellick III follows this structure. But, then again, as rooted as this structure is in classic myth perhaps when we talk about storytelling we are really talking about the heroic journey structure.

Anyway, I was absorbed by the story in The Egg Man the entire time. And, despite following the heroic journey structure, I would not argue that this story is predictable.

Its simple, direct style with its odd premise and rule-playing structure makes it read like a fairy tale for adults.

See what Carlton Mellick III is writing with his furiously unstoppable pen and boundless imagination here.

Review: Deep Blue by Brian Auspice (Eraserhead Press; 2014)

17 Dec

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Devils in fridges. The door opens and closes. A woman pancakes, disappearing through a crack in the floor. The narrator buys another little man.

Deep Blue is reminiscent of a Lenora Carrington painting.

Posters of Abraham Lincoln standing next to a log. An obese man eats his own cigar then points to an elevator which leads nowhere.

Colors dominate the Roland Topor-esque cityscape. They filter experiences, draw the wandering narrator forward past new boundaries as he tries to buy more little men in cans for his machine and the blue devil in his fridge, and call out to him as if grasping the wand or brush of the mad painter as he scribbles vivid faces on blank masks in a movie theatre where the attendees watch him instead of the film.

Women melting into brick as he is whisked away by cab drivers requiring no fare. Yet it may not have been fair the way his mother treated him, preferring to listen to the newscaster rattle on about the weather than to talk to him.

The many psychologist decapitated heads in the dumpster may believe in reality, but the receptionist who chose to melt into a bloodstain in the carpet did not.

Siamese starfish were meant to be removed from stepmothers. An old man rides a centipede during John’s ambitious journey to become a man in a can.

This book is excellent. Vaguely nightmarish, the language is stripped-down and the intuitive plot is trippy. There is a heavy emphasis on redundant suicide and nausea. The voice remains deadpan, no matter how ridiculous or dream-like the unfolding events become.

I thought about Phillip Jose Farmer’s “Sliced-Crosswise-Only-On-Tuesday World” but as there were no seemingly intentional direct references, I remain unsure as to whether Auspice ever read that particular tale.

Check out Deep Blue and Brian Auspice’s blog.

Review: Kitten by G. Arthur Brown (Eraserhead Press; 2012)

15 Dec

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Kittens who are not kittens who throw up stamps are not as dangerous to one’s sanity as the cat lady living next door with over 20 imaginary cats defecating all over her house. Yet this dead girl who emerged from the trunk of their attic existed because of the grandfather’s experiments.

This whimsical novella is compact, tight, excellently written, and hugely inventive. It also features time travel and is consistently surreal, in the classical school of painters and filmmakers sense.

When a dead boy is used as a puppet on an island run by children, the goofiness that exploded like napalm in the previous 25 or so pages vanished and offered a brief respite and a ray of hope for the more sinister first section of Kitten. There was a medium modicum of darkness during an Alice in Wonderland-driven segue through riddles threatening cracks in comforting logic, the blanket of which we clutch ever so tightly as the moon erupts his warty smile.

There were some interesting quasi metafictional moments as well–an awareness of certain characters coupled with a near willingness to break the fourth wall as they compared the transpiring events to Guy Maddin and Gogol.

In the end, we ride a sleigh backwards and discover the frozen icicle fingers of the ghoul dangling just beside the sleigh’s bells.

Check out more mind-melting work from Arthur G. Brown.

Review: The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone by MP Johnson (Bizzaro Pulp Press; 2013)

14 Dec

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I decided to read some of MP Johnson’s stuff because I’m working on a story to submit to his anthology about G.G. Allin. I read a hilarious flash fiction piece about maggot infested dolls in a Strangehouse Books Christmas anthology. I then wanted to read his newest book, Dungeons and Drag Queens, but it is not available digitally. I currently live and work in Bolivia where it is difficult to receive physical books. Then I discovered he’d written this other book called The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone.

This one pulls off a brilliant trick of rhetoric: its voice contains the cadences of a southern farmer accent coupled with pearls of farm-wisdom in a tone that borders on satirical but does not fully embrace its own irony.

Paper-mache-praying-mantis-mask-bedecked meat lovers abound. As do shacks haunted by pig spirits and baby arms where genitalia should be and filthy aunts and uncles in shock-rock punk bands.

House flies fall in love with Hitler as a boy remains love with his pet pig even after it is turned into cured ham. A Fight Club-like sequence follows as the novella’s ties to reality just gets looser and looser. A drag queen is introduced in a hitch-hiking experience gone wrong. A trippy sequence of interstellar space travel that becomes a weird amalgam of psychosis and blended genres (fantasy, science fiction and horror follows).

The novella ends with a bizarre concert scene that brought to mind the cult film Bad Boy Bubby–I’m not sure if MP Johnson has seen this film or if it was an intentional reference.

The book is a wacky and funny surreal adventure tale that will leave you chuckling and dumbfounded. Think of these scatterbrained notes and fractured summary as invitation for the psychedelic-horror inclined.

Check out MP Johnson’s blog and more info about his books here.

Review: Rotten Little Animals by Kevin Shamel (Eraserhead Press; 2009)

14 Dec

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Filthy animals directing films take a break to be rotten little voyeurs. You see: humans used to know animals could talk but they forgot.

What proceeds is a wildly unpredictable, crass, violent, and odd novella with plenty of action.

After the wicked carnage following the completion of a film about the kidnapping of a human boy, revenge is taken. From there, this gross but goofy gem of a novella hallucination gets wackier and wackier. The traumatized boy getting swallowed by a whale puppet is another highlight.

68, 412 ants talk in unison through a megaphone as a skunk sits in a director’s chair. Car chases through Yellowstone will have you on the edge of your seat until the novella’s shocking, yet surprisingly happy, climax.

Shamel writes in a clipped noir style yet his imagination is boundless. His plotting is daring and unexpected. He also has an original sense of humor. Bizzaro is a fun genre. Sometimes I struggle to identify what exactly unifies its authors in terms of approach, but this is one of the stronger examples I’ve encountered.

This will be a special treat for those who enjoyed the cult film Meet The Feebles, although that is not to say this is at all riding on its coattails. This is an entirely different beast altogether, full of more mind-bending ideas in a short psychedelic punch to consciousness than a poisonous mushroom.

Check out Rotten Little Animals at Eraserhead Press.

Review: The Farrowing by Jesse Wheeler (Strangehouse Books; 2014)

13 Dec

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Mutant babies twisting in blue and purple veins somewhere in the dungeons below a good Christian family’s home. A pig with a human face trots into the master bathroom. Sublime toilet escapades abound in spades. Lost in underground tunnels. An obese man with pink velvet skin unleashes his floating tendrils, shining his sinister grin of demented ecstasy at his screaming prisoners drugged by the magical contents from the leather bag of a blue-skinned dwarf playing a flute.

These are just a few of the disturbing images from this depraved but imaginative book. Like in most 1980s body horror movies (Re-Animator, Society, From Beyond), the emphasis is more on spectacle, weird monsters, and a grotesque tableaux of mind-bending mutated set pieces rather than characters or palpable suspense. On second thought, the pages turned quickly on my screen during the escape scene in the middle of the book.

The image of the hideous “Pink Lou” was particularly imaginative, strange, and disturbing.

Some may find this book offensive or deranged, but Wheeler follows his imagination to the limit of bizarreness without censorship.

Check out The Farrowing at StrangeHouse Books