Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias (Broken River Books; 2015)

28 Nov


The first line that struck me in this poetic, Spanish-language-infused noir was:

“The blackness covering his features sprouted ghostly tendrils that seeped into the night around us and made everything darker. Impossibly darker.”
It’s light hints of surrealism like this that make this book stand out from other noirs. 

Another random, great line: 

“The shoes on his feet looked five sizes too big and they were vomiting their tongues like alley winos.”

This book, despite the aforementioned surreal touches, is grounded in personal details and naturalistic experiences. The rawness of the violent scene in the bathroom comes to mind when thinking back on some of the more vivid moments in Zero Saints

Then there beautiful moments of tragic poetry like this one:

“La frontera is a place where miedo seeps into your bones and the silence you’re forced to keep allows the cries of dead children to enter your soul and break you in half like a dry twig. La frontera is a place where los huesos de los muertos are never buried deep enough and the pain of broken families and la Sangre de los inocentes has mixed with the plants and the air and the soil. All that darkness is what gives el rio its peculiar smell and green color. Some things have a bottom but they are bottomless. The infinite darkness that hides in that flowing jade vein is what makes white men with guns pull the trigger even when the figure moving under the crosshairs is a woman or a child.” 

As you can infer from the above-quotes passage, this book showcases a harrowing realism that cuts to the bone and is definitely not of the cliched, alcoholic, tough-as-nails, chain smoking detective–the narrator of Zero Saints admits that being a coward has kept him alive so far. 

I could basically quote the entirety of chapter 6 (where the above quote comes from). Whichever side the immigration debate you happen to fall on, this chapter will surely offer you a glimpse into the difficulty and terror ingrained in that experience, “because the thing about life is that time gets between facts and memories and as memories turn into what they are, facts start sliding back, moving into a space full of images from peliculas and skeletons from bad dreams and imagined monstruos and stuff that someone told you.” 

The rest of the book is elliptical and brutal. One later chapter comparing the difficulty of reality to the sustained faked sense of desire and enjoyment within pornography stuck out. 

There is a lyricism to this book that combined with brutality, a glimpse into the underbelly of modem Austin, Texas, and a holy tone using euphonic passages of the Spanish language, will offer the noir fan seeking something different and challenging, yet poetic and prescient, a vibrant new volume. 

Read Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

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