Tag Archives: bizarro

Review: I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater (Fungasm Press; 2015)

14 Nov

  

I Will Rot Without You

A poetic homage to the threat of cockroaches? A series of surreally humorous observations? A New Jersey blood brother of Dostoyevsky’s underground man? 

The encounter with a neighbor (Dee) in the hall, offers a haunted glimpse into what is surely a major theme in this book: morbid devotion. And then we get a weird blend of Basket Case 80s horror and Notes from the Underground when she reveals amputated pieces of her boyfriend sewn to her chest. 

Between scenes that could be straight out of the end of Psycho, we hop on the wings of an eerie butterfly to discover a fantastical plane amidst all the vermin and devotion, a different plane of existence so fierce and ignited by poesy that it’s immune to rot or decay.

Fingers of a boyfriend crawl about, stitched to a neck–or sometimes legs become tree trunks when we dream of pus bubbling in boils. 

A line of a 100 cockroaches pass mold spores (“little white and pink bulbs in their palpi”) from the bathroom to our sleeping hero’s mouth which are “held like torches.” 

I loved the following passage: 

“Like a specter she stands. She is the poltergeist of doorframes. She peeks into the apartment, unsure if she should step out of the purgatory of the vestibule and back into this graveyard she used to call her home.” 

Another line I adored: “Her flowers suffocate the garden of my heart.” 

Nightmarish Twilight Zone moments intertwine with a Remedios Varos painting. 

Sitting on a throne of human skulls, we gaze down on the festering city. 

A pile of bills resembles Ernie as he hobbles about decaying and with new wooden mop legs.

Your face may be rearranged by this book; your soul may become disfigured. 

Ernie discovers a ghastly surprise about Dee when the lights are low–a surprise that rivals what Jack Torrance finds on room 237.

This novel shares moments in a beautiful realm of the ineffable while making love feel tragic and ephemeral: 

“These are the people who I need to continue to carry around with me. I just–need to remind myself that I used to be a person before we poisoned each other.”

And:

“Our time together, it was like smoke. You filled my lungs, briefly, and then I breathed you out and you were gone.” 

I read the book over the course of a single morning. This definitely has the humor of previous works I’ve read by Danger Slater, but this one has darker themes and a more poetic conclusion. 

Read I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater

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Review: Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas (Eraserhead Press; 2014)

9 Feb

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Contains Spoilers

This action-packed, surreal, and humorous science fiction novella will challenge your science fiction genre expectations and confound your worldview.

Meet Pax: a four-armed intergalactic beefcake. Join him as he battles an array of imaginative beasts and contenders for the title at the demand of an egotistical Emperor.

Often, Pax Titanus reads like a dark adult cartoon. I wish there were bizarro novellas like this one when I was growing up. I would have devoured them with the gusto I spent lapping up every last b horror and drive-in classic from those long-forgotten video rental shelves.

The opening had a great hook (eventually, the two best friends would put their hands on each other’s cocks, ha, ha). Their conversations are refreshingly crass for a sci fi novel. Most sci fi I’ve read lacks the sense of humor of this one (except for PKD, who is the best IMO). Craxx’s sensual obsession with his sister is also funny and irreverent.

Here’s a memorable scene: Pax enlarging himself while saving Craxx with his monstrous member as they landed on the planet’s wailing diva and splattered the crowd with his love juices. Crude yet imaginative as the best of bizarro always seems to manage.

I read in the intro that this book was originally a short story. I asked Tom Lucas about the story’s genesis; he told me it was produced in a Litreactor writing class with Rose O’Keefe.

A vivid and mysterious call to adventure commences, along with a well-argued refusal of the call; however, the adventure must be undertaken: it means saving Pax’s family. The destruction of the journalists is funny scene. Pax’s relations with his squid wife and her secretions a bit eerie as she must’ve smelled his musk through her beak.

I would say Tom’s strength is definitely in writing imaginative action sequences with a sense of spectacle. His talents really shined in the first fight sequence with the…Mugworth (sp?). It was a nail-biting scene, which must have been difficult to accomplish given the odd nature of both the opponents’ bodies, but since we learned of Tits’ growth abilities earlier, it was a sound fight that did not tax the plausibility detector in this reader, even as his overweight fly trainer hovered in the corner.

The beaver with the hair caught in his throat was pretty hilarious–I got the sense of an ominous presence, but then when he coughed up the hair he became rather goofy. The second fight left me wanting for a bit more obstacles and passed too rapidly. The mana-pot and the fireballs made for RPG-esque imagery.

The scene with the dead Craxx and his “ninja handler” provided another PKD-esque horror moment. I love when horror blends with sci-fi and honestly wish their more of this sort of stuff out there.

The fight with the brain squealer was memorable. The mixture of cuddliness and terror reminded me of one of my favorite bizarro novels: The Cannibals of Candyland.

The final fight sequence did not disappoint. The inter-dimensional time-shifting device created quite the final adversary. The ending balanced humor with pathos ingeniously. Overall, a wild and fun ride. Sort of a bizarro Rocky mixed with Farscape.

Prepare to be disgusted, shocked, surprised, and awed at the magnificently grotesque set pieces this novel conjures up with a slightly satirical tone; that being said, this novella is not strictly a satire. It plays by the rules of the pulpy bizarro playbook: it delivers in equal doses of fun, entertaining storytelling, crisp and direct prose, unexpected plot twists, and bizarre and original imagery that somehow mocks and reshapes science fiction tropes while celebrating them.

Read Pax Titanus.

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.

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.

TV Snorted My Brain by Bradley Sands (LegumeMan Books; 2012)

31 May

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Deeply in love with the cover art of this one–I wonder if this artist actually does comics? This one did not have the same emotional depth as some of the other bizarro writers I’ve been reading lately. Nonetheless, you will find some imaginative absurdist mayhem within these pages. Check it out if you feel like some lighter/consistently slapstick and scatological bizarro fare.

Buy TV Snorted My Brain by Bradley Sands

Carnageland by David W. Barbee (Eraserhead Press; 2009) Review

26 May

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This bizarro sci-fi/fairy tale hybrid was pretty fun and odd, if you don’t mind a kind of lazy adherence to the heroic journey structure–no, Harry Potter or The Hunger Games this ain’t…although both the aforementioned works are still-born, tiresome works for a brain-dead planet. Why are many pop culture addicts so comforted by patterns? One may never know…the truth could be too horrible ever to discern.

Invader 898 is assigned to conquer a specific planet where hermaphrodite wizards/witches rule and Rapunzel-esque princesses dot the aforementioned hero’s golden brick road through threshold guardians and potential gateways to return with the elixir. But, again, this is all done in a mostly satirical fashion, albeit with some explicit scenes of violence and perverse humor.

Buy Carnageland
Eraserhead Press

Shatnerquake by Jeff Burke (Eraserhead Press; 2009) Review

26 May

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I finally got around to reading this one the other day. I found it enjoyable in many ways, yet it caused me to ask myself a recurring question: what is like to write with characters that already exist?

Fan-fiction.

But is this fan-fiction?

No. Not at all.

Actually…despite the excessively nerdy setting (a William Shatner convention), the Shatner impressions (by various Shatner performances) aren’t even pedantically accurate. Having only seen a few Star Trek episodes, there appear to be very few stock phrases in evidence.

Therefore, one begins to wonder: if this is not a heavy-handed ode to nerd, doll-collecting culture…then what is it?

I feel, like the best of bizarro, it is a sort of half-hearted attempt a satirize a given concept or subculture without actually ridiculing it too harshly and, in that misadventure/misdiagnosis, creating some bold, original, and quick–a kind of blitzkrieg of an idea, half-executed and kind of spinning in a psychedelic direction while, due to the quick speed of its execution, it retains its b-movie robes so it can never quiet rest and dusty itself into a certain brand of literary experimentalism.

Instead, its intention remains like a blur of excitement, fun, and a weird idea never fully perfected.


Buy Shatnerquake

Eraserhead Press

You Are Sloth! by Steve Lowe (Eraserhead Press; 2013)

24 May

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This book, written in the 2nd person, is a hilarious send-up of our online, email-obsessive-checking culture. For what resides mostly in our inboxes: spam.

What if your job was to edit terrible self-help books and your current project was a cliched, bumbling mess about harnessing your spirit animal. The narrator’s battle against being a sloth (despite the fact that it is OBVIOUSLY his spirit animal, even if you believe in this spirit animal theory only slightly)–for that is what this surreal piece forces him to become–is hilarious. Yes, you will joyfully be reminded of “The Metamorphosis,” but in the same way, say, that you were reminded of Wilder’s The Apartment when watching some modern sitcom or RomCom about a failing relationship or hilarious but inconvenient roommate situation–but, ahem, that is not to degrade this excellent, and incredibly entertaining, new work of modern fiction in any sense. And have you ever wondered what it is exactly that dogs are saying? If so, look no further than this excellent work about a couple of Jonah Hill-esque slackers simply minding their own business when the supernatural occurrence strikes our slothy hero like a bold of surreal lightning.

I might as well admit: I LOL’ed. You might too. Then again, there are certain sequences that may scar you for life. But would a landlady really do that? When under the reign of the true spirit animal lord with a hatred of linking verbs, apparently yes.

Buy You Are Sloth!
Eraserhead Press