Archive | January, 2015

Review: Kill Ball by Carlton Mellick III (Eraserhead Press; 2012)

6 Jan

20150106-100433.jpg

Fusing giallo with a children’s film concept (people must stay in hamster-ball-like bubbles because of a disease) is an unexpected and brilliant idea. The darkness of the tropes in the giallo genre also keep things from getting too cartoony.

The book functions like a fast-paced thriller, although I do wish certain giallo elements had been played up more, particularly the elaborate death scenes of Argento–although I’m not sure if this would’ve worked on the page.

The explanation and inner-workings of the devious Kill Ball are unexpected and imaginative. The imagery of the narrator and Siren’s evolved bodies was also original.

Carlton Mellick III certainly has a knack for balancing conventional structures with bizzare and outlandish ideas. He states in his introduction to this book that he considers it to be a satire of the giallo genre. It definitely has its share of comedic moments, particularly early on where I chuckled at least a few times (people making fun of each other for how they chose to dress their balls). Kill Ball also contains its fair share of horror movie imagery, yet also resembles a comedy in which one cares about the characters (something like Superbad or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles).

Buy and read Kill Ball.

Advertisements

Review: False Magic Kingdom by Jordan Krall (Copeland Valley Electronics; 2012)

4 Jan

20150104-171520.jpg

Ordinary events like checking into a hotel are altered due to the estrangement of our narrator and then sparkle with alien sheen of newness.

The flapping wings of death birds. If you know your party’s extension, please. If you know your party’s extension then listen to the sound of a malevolent voice repeating “gin, gin, gin, gin, gin.”

The details are mundane yet the feeling of work’s numbing effects ring universal.

The rumblings of secret slaughters heard inside a pillow.

Sheer majesty pollutes the sky and harms Jessica. She mouths words she wishes were bombs as she watches the brains and machines from above.

Black eggs in the king’s stomach.

All the fingernails in the kingdom throw tantrums.

Bland interviews at work with ominous undercurrents.

A theater made of drugged diamond planes.

Mummies make love to library books.

Sentient beings are buildings in this false magic kingdom being typewritten alongside b-movies requiring tracking adjustments to alter and skewer the clarity of their plot lines.

There’s definitely a Burroughs and Ballard influence on this work and even a bit of Joyce during one chapter of clashing speech and thoughts. It is not much like the bizarro western entitled A Fistful of Feet I previously read by Krall. Definitely unique and suggestive but those wishing for a traditional narrative might find themselves scratching their heads while drooling.

Check out more from Copeland Valley Electronics and Dynatox Ministries here.

Review: Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon by Cameron Pierce (Broken River Books; 2014)

4 Jan

20150104-005659.jpg

“Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon”

A light surrealism permeates this tale. Pierce’s obsession is intriguing, especially if you reread his earlier works like The Ass Goblins of Ashuwitz or “The Elf Slut Sisters.” His voice feels more restrained, mature, and secure in this story, although it does border on Norman Mclean territory. This promises to be an intriguing evolution for one of the first bizarro writers I read 4-5 years ago.

“Sway”

This is a very funny story. Told from the POV of a Vietnam vet with foul, politically incorrect terminology, what begins like a cliched war story quickly becomes something entirely different and unexpected. I won’t spoil exactly how it develops, but I will say that Pierce’s twisted sense of humor surfaces in abundance so its earnest yet gruff tone is quickly undermined by Pierce’s satirical touch.

“Drop the World”

I have mixed feelings about stories told in the 2nd person, but it works well here. It drops you into the center of the action of a female boxing match. As the dreams and hopes of our protagonist spiral downward on a trail of auto-fume vapors, we encounter a surrealistic vision of the victor of the earlier boxing match intermixed with angel imagery. This one manages a downbeat ending that is still hopeful, even if that hope is smeared in rubble, debris, and delusion as the mouth in a body bag speaks.

“Short of Lundy”

This one has the structure of an imaginary encyclopedia of fantastic fish coupled with a simple story of a man and his father’s stories of fishing simple trout during his boyhood. Pierce’s whimsical imagination remains in full-display despite what the aforementioned synopsis might conjure. I particularly enjoyed the description of the last sea-monster sized fish eating cows and cranes.

“Help Me”

I read this story a few weeks ago in the anthology entitled Letters to Lovecraft. In that anthology, Pierce provides an introduction and states his love for “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” which is unsurprising given the fishy nature of its imagery and anthropomorphic concluding twist. This story seemed more complex and creepy reading it the second time through. I actually went back and read the last few pages for a third time before writing this. It seemed, on my second reading, the narrator had actually become the human-like fish that demanded help; on the third read, I noticed that the other fish remained in the car yet is referred to as “the firstborn.” This is my favorite one so far, and I’m happy I reread it. Probably the most straightforward horror tale of the collection.

“The Bass Fisherman’s Wife”

Wow. These keep getting better. There was something very elegant about the style of this one–very restrained and almost musically composed, if that makes any sense. It has a prim and proper style, like something out of Nathaniel Hawthorne yet with a decidedly Kafka-esque development. To summarize the events would do it a disservice–this one must be unveiled like a series of masterful paintings.

“Three Fishermen”

This odd trypich of tales do not fit together in any discernible puzzle or mystery, but maybe I should return to them at a later date to unlock their secrets.

“Floodland”

I loved this one. It has a slight Lost Highway feel to it while also revisiting the themes and imagery of “Help Me.” The narrator’s scene with his wife from a different life was handled well. This kind of story–with multiple planes of shifting realities–must’ve been difficult to pull off with such clarity and deceptive simplicity.

“The Incoming Tide”

Cosmic forces in tents and from the night. Missing elk by inches on slick roads after midnight. Slippery fragments, breaking but forming an arrow of energy towards a still-beating heart.

“Trophies”

A short somber tale that feels a bit like Hemingway without the drinking and contains zero fantastic elements. Still moving in its own way, like a more optimistic piece by Carver but also without the drinking.

“Let Love In”

We encounter another talking fish, although this one is fueled by bruised hallucination. In times of desperation, love can you make you do anything–even it that means trading flesh for fish at a dirty counter to hide reptilian eyes beneath the eaves.

“Easiest Kites There Are To Fly”

The title of this tales serves as a gateway to madness. Sad events lead a man to be haunted by a devil fish. Tempestuous relations with his father and wife also lead to him drinking too much and too often. The tale feels more like a fable or fairy tale than some of the others due to the whimsical feat of a man actually becoming successful, for a short stretch, selling small easy kites to fly.

“The Snakes of Boring”

This story, the longest in the collection, moved at an exceptionally fast pace due to its humor and hardboiled plot. Despite some ludicrous developments along the way, the story remained compelling–sort of like an Ealing comedy (think Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Lavender Hill Mob (I’m thinking of the imbecilic plan at the catfish farm that, of course, goes horrendously wrong). I won’t spoil other twists in the goofy but macabre plot.

“California Oregon”

This is an intense, choose-your-adventure style piece. While the form is used ironically, the emotions are harrowing and unsentimental. A very beautiful story that I will never forget.

“Our Love Will Go the Way of Salmon”

Sort of epilogue to a genuinely original collection of short stories. I read this while staying at a house on Lake Rupanco in southern Chile. Though I don’t usually fish, I did a bit while staying here. I also looked for salmon in a nearby river. Maybe someday I will again.

Get Our Love Will Go The Way of Salmon.

Review: I Like Turtles by G. Arthur Brown (Strange Edge Publications; 2014)

4 Jan

20150104-002345.jpg

“When Television Ends”

A woman in a burlap sack. A hickey bestowed by a theatre critic neighbor after a life-size puppet show because the television stopped working. A ludicrous flash of supercilious nonsense drizzled in cheesy effects.

“The Advantages of Smelling Bacon At The Moment of Death”

A truly absurdist bizarro mini western. You will laugh. You will cry. But most all: prepare to be dazzled. Also: the description of a bacon-wrapped limb may cause hunger pains. Be prepared to be estranged from your own instincts.

“A Short Call From Ionesco, Act 1”

An irreverent mini play that offers a flash of Ionesco while barely containing him.

“Funeral Disease”

This one reminded me a bit of “All You Zombies” by Robert E. Heinlein because both stories feature time-travel paradoxes coupled with gender confusion. Although this one appears more outwardly macabre, I found Heinlein’s tale to be more sinister and this one to be more black comedy.

“The Marvelous Marble Midget and The Mites”

A hilarious parody (or celebration of) performance art or the creation of a new type of art that could be deemed ‘living art’–the last line of the story, however, could decidedly alert the more prudish set of the general readership heading for the hills for their pin-striped stockings and ant helmets.

“The World Wasn’t the World Anymore”

While the line regarding the hippie chick being cute enough to overlook the fact that she was a hippy chick might leave SOME rolling in hysterics, others may find a simply devious satirist at work here, underming the very foundations of civility.

“Make a Better Brody”

Referencing both Jaws and ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ in the same short piece, our narrator must have been drinking the intoxitating sea water of dead manatee from the very beginning to have such lucid fever dreams.

“The Rape Cake”

A very disturbing premise with a shocking ending. This is not the sort of party you’d wish to attend.

“Brain Harvest”

Clevery subverting the it-was-all-a-dream cliche ending, this one has an ending with a simply monstous twist.

“Grape Will Be Fine”

An undercurrent of sadness uppercuts this litlle ditty about the depressing sight of inedible food and the complicated requests that can sometimes utter from lairs of senility.

“Holy Olivia Orphanage”

A lot of layers to this one, actually. Multiple ghosts are created from one murder, including a five-headed ghost with distinct voices depending on the speaking head. The last line resounds with pathos.

“A Rest Room İncident Amidst Gripping Conversation”

İf you’ve never been to a women’s restroom or a Genesis concert, this could be the story for you–unless, that is, you don’t like severe and sinister endings.

“His Blind Friend Daniel”

Sort like a proverb with a cryptic message. The spot where the lesson or moral should go is a blurry banner asking you to descend a hallucinated ladder to its opening steps.

“Leg Shopping”

This one was similar to the humor and surreal nature of Daniil Kharms’ work.
It is what it says it’s about, but what he does with the legs once he buys them–that’s the icky part.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XI: A Place Beauteous of Which I Dare Not Speak”

Polaroids serve as evidence after mind-altering experiences; however, there are times when you could do without reminders of ALL that has been placed inside your mouth.

“Look Alike”

A man walks into a coffee shop who like–Now wait a second here. Are you expecting me to spoil the surprise, the punchline, and the grand reveal? You must be mad.

“A Phone Call From Ionesco, Act II”

Violence ensues in lieu of true therapist methods, and all because a doctor was unable to take off his lab coat and so alter his profession.

“Diff’rent Stroke Fan Fic #1: The Look-Alikes”

Arnold is mistaken for Barrack Obama by a young girl yet his butler, as it turns out, is even more smitten to keep the lie alive than anyone–with disastrous consequences.

“Band of Bass”

‘Like a Beatles-esque Gang of Four with three basses’ is how our narrator’s friend’s college band is described in this tale, however the sad but cryptic refrain of ‘I pulled your mother’s pork’ serves to beckon this particular Brit’s untimely demise.

“The Weeping Consort”

Turkish men make mechanical cats. The craftsmanship is fine, yet we are strolling down a picture-perfect postcard of a seaside strip known as ‘olden days.’

“Getting Plugged In”

Men able to multiply should be trusted, yet in the future maybe you too will allow one sincere version of a such a man to paint your black patent leather shoes in white-out before plugging an appliance cord into your head.

“The Special Doctor”

There’s a war in your mouth, but the doctor’s mouth remains sealed as if a forbidden dungeon and it still beckons and sings with lock-jawed vengeance.

“Hell Block”

A lone red pubic she discovers in your tightie whities leads to a curse which leads to a store selling faux remedies where our heroic optometrist meets a tranny and they live happily ever after. Oops. Spoiled that one. The synopsis just read too wackily not to spill the beans.

“Wet Land”

When wearing silk garments, always remember to make three faces at once when lazing about in a camp of air mattresses.

“The Missing Edge”

Reading teen magazines in the park, a girl recalls cutting out her sisters’ eyes and her mother’s tongue.

“Cop Boxer”

A dream-like tale about a boxer in the ring with his gloves glued together facing an unsympathetic opponent as an audience of trolls cheer for blood.

“Transexual Meth Addicts With Marshmallow Eyes”

This hilariously titled piece does indeed contain what it promises. This has to be the first time I’ve encountered a death-by-breast scene.

“It Happened By Mistake”

Talking tables are threatened to be sharpened into pencils, but that description makes this sound too goofy. This is surrealism with a sense of terror like Max Ernst’s work.

“The Hare in the Hair”

A hare who wants only to eat hair may get loose in your lawn and call forth the hair from your hare’s fur, follicle by follicle.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XXIII: A Meeting With the Chancellor of Mysteria”

Another wacky chapter from a manuscript. The uptight Victorian style of the writing in these uneventful chapters serves as a contrast to some of the darker stories.

“The Russians”

Gogol may be hidden in nesting dolls, and Daniil Kharms appears. I theorized earlier that G. Arthur Brown must be a fan!

“James Franco v. Shea Lebouf”

Two celebrities with bloated egos (hold on, that s redundant) battle it out while nobody watches (for a change).

“The Fellow on the Balcony”

Below nuns converse. Above a yarn is spun, yet the nuns may find its source deplorable due to the looming centerfolds.

“A Public Luncheon”

The question to be or to be answered: will he dine ON a monkey or WITH a monkey.

“Life (The Car Model, Not the Thing You Lead)”

Ill-made chocolate milk rotates onto a scene of philosophical arguments.

“The Trouble With the Bleeding Hearts”

Brown here makes a metaphor literal, puns, and takes us on a magic carpet ride of grotesque absurdity.

“Sorcerer or Genius”

This one has the tone of a lab report, speckled with evil acts that only a sorcerer of the black arts would commit.

“Where Babies Come From”

When paying for somebody else’s bar mitzvah photos with an eighty dollar bill, remember to remind your wife to stir the sauce every 15 seconds or your baby might impregnate itself, grow wings, and fly away before it is to be sacrificed.

“Fat Cat”

Imagine a tale in which your cat losing weight contributes to your own weight loss.

“The New Absurdist”

An Irishman and an African American woman argue about who or what a mystical train might contain.

“Poor November”

November gets personified as a wounded woman trampled over by the greedy December-lovers as our quaint narrator sips eggnog beside the roasting television watching low budget sci fi movies.

“Astounding Adventures of Cyril Bright Ch XXXIII: A Change of Lighting and of Fortune Also”

This chapter would make a great premise for a novel: the sun has gone out and unknown monsters roam the world.

“Blood Poison”

After tattooing names and numbers to his children’s bald heads, a man and his friends make scarecrows come to life and attempt to play baseball with them. This tale then develops into an eerie realm where madness prospers like a field of eager flowers.

“Last Night with Marvel”

Loved the magical realist element of this one. A chinese restaurant that is literally a hole in the wall. Very lucid and characteristically irreverent.

“What It Means To Mow”

A maniacal and funny piece about a man convinced his mowing is a primeval act of great importance and that his client is secretly trying to poison him.

“Bad Days”

A burst of a post-apocalyptic tale told in three dimly synchronous fragments.

“Geordio’s Rooster Flock”

Roosters dislike their eggs even though they can’t lay them. They can lay little golf ball-like things that act as a psychoactive drug on the narrator’s consciousness.

“Sweat Bees”

An unsympathetic but helpful Jesus saves our narrator from an unwholesome fate but fails to notice the poisonous sweat beads zigzagging after him in the sky.

“This Year’s Exhibition”

The Einstein-haired scientists may have had an adverse reaction to sex, but at least the horses end up having a grand dinner of neighing and cavorting because the exhibition did not fulfill the promise of last year’s.

“Barbarous Hellstorm”

A conversation about a way to make a wacky sequel to Braveheart.

“Window in the Wife”

This takes seeing through someone to a whole new level, yet when her glass gets cracked he notices the other men leering in at him.

“Writing in Tongues”

I do wonder what the ancient script on the dead boy’s tongue said.

“A Phone Call From Ionesco, Act III”

We return to the theme of enemies and friends living inside of bodies as the mini play concludes.

“A Vision of the Future”

Several terrifying visions of the future unfold, including a disordered misinterpretation of the Robin Hood franchise and tiny toilet attendants to assist with the eggs .

Overall, a miraculous and astounding collection of bizarre ideas. I preferred the stories that were slightly darker and lucid and contained self-contained worlds of Brown’s unbridled imagination rather than the ones that contained too many pop culture references. The best ones are like glittering hieroglyphics, turning the world inside out through puns and unexpected shifts in logic and reality.

Get I Like Turtles.

Learn more about G. Arthur Brown here at his blog.

Review: Hung Hounds by Donald Armfield (Riot Forge; 2014)

2 Jan

20150102-123735.jpg

Dog creatures sit at the bar slurping from their drinks. He went away for just a little while after eating all those wings on wing night. He went to the bathroom and returned to a darkened, altered world.

Eventually, we end up in alternate version of Saudi Arabia where kinky sisters have their way with a wart-infested dwarf character. Men wearing tutus holdup a convenience store disguised by camel hair mustaches.

The hung hounds arrived from an alternate dimensions where the sky turns orange during their endless mating season.

Blurry maps in the shapes of genitals analyzed by an older gent in a jock strap at the village store. Herein lies the direction to the quest for the golden statue.

Hulk Hogan appears in an alternate dimension. The kinky sisters get half-eaten then sewn back together by a monkey. Then there’s gory battle with the hung hounds.

Hung Hounds is goofy but funny and fun. If you like Bradley Sands’ stuff (TV Snorted My Brain, Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy, etc.), you’ll surely love this one.

Wacky, zany, sex-fueled escapades will keep you laughing or scratching your head. If you want Indiana Jones bizarro, you have found it.

Check out more about Riot Forge and Donald Armfield here