Category: review

Review: You Are Sloth! by Steve Lowe

Steve Lowe has a remarkable talent to write stories that are at once grotesque, imaginative and absolutely funny, but that have a moral dimension to them too. In You Are Sloth, he uses a bold style, told in a second-person point of view, to tell the story of the time you click a link in a spam e-mail, subject line “you are sloth” and find yourself transformed into a sloth.

But why? Why would this happen? Why a sloth?

That is the mystery, and it’s up to you and your “friends”, Randy (maybe retarded) and Cross (probably an a-hole) to solve it. Will you find out who the deranged individual known only as “The Spammer” is, or why they chose to target you and turn you into a sloth? Perhaps slower than usual (thanks to your newfound slothiness), you will begin to unravel this mystery.

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A Review of: Diegeses by D. Harlan Wilson

Design by Matthew Revert

And so it is finally time for another review… this time: DIEGESES by D. HARLAN WILSON

D. Harlan Wilson has quickly asserted himself as an exemplary example of a new wave of writers unafraid to engage in what can only be described as “post-storytelling”. Frenetic pace, schizo-language, ultraviolence, ridiculous plots and hilarious characters all conspire to create truly remarkable works of fiction in every one of his books.

His latest, DIEGESES consists of two shorter novellas titled “The Bureau of Me” and “The Idaho Reailty” published by Anti-Oedipus Press – if you have read Deleuze & Guattari’s works, you will realize this is a clue as to the nature of Wilson’s writing. The two stories combine, in my opinion, to create a rhizome of sorts. It grows from the middle between them. It is about the tension between two movements of the self, each one is headed in a different direction – TBoM, a territorializing movement towards the structured, stratified reality of ego and sense; TIR, a deterritorializing movement towards the Body without Organs.

“The Bureau of Me” introduces us to Curd, an actor of sorts who relies on alcohol, bad breakfasts and sex with his assistant to get through life. He’s also plagued by a shadowy organization known as The Bureau of Me, whose agents cordially invite him to something unspecified. Is Curd suffering as a paranoiac machine, bearing witness to a false movement of persecutory agents intent on doing him harm? He wants to be free, but finds himself continually repressed, depressed and contained by external pressures to become something solid to become an identity. The Bureau of Me is an external representation of his own fears that set his own body against him – hence his witnessing a scene where two men eat each other, at first it seems they will embrace before they engage in devouring each other’s flesh.

Moving into “The Idaho Reality” we see the world as a vignette, reality as layers piled on top of one another – it begins with the world as a stage and everything is signs. Perhaps covering the true reality, perhaps as the true reality, that is not important. What is important is that we witness Curd as an actor portraying somebody else and the story moves away from this at the end. If the Bureau of Me is about a paranoiac machine being triangulated to become an Ego, then The Idaho Reality is about the deterritorialization of the strata of reality into a desert: It is about becoming a Body without Organs – represented by Curd’s final foray into a desert. It is about losing yourself, rather than finding yourself. Becoming-schizophrenic, not in a clinical sense, but becoming as the world itself is: schizophrenia as a mode of production.

This is a fascinating text, full of Wilson’s signature prose and wit, superb descriptions, fantastic dialogue and radical mobilization of Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. It can be enjoyed on many levels, because it is so wonderfully written. It is one that I will have to come back to again and again in order to read more fully what Wilson is saying, but highly recommend that people read regardless of their interest in that side of it, because Wilson is a sublime writer.

Pick up your copy of Diegeses at amazon.co.uk or at amazon.com and check out Wilson’s other work at his site, check out the third part of his SciKungFi trilogy too @  thekyotoman.com

Review of: Abortion Arcade by Cameron Pierce

ABORTION ARCADE is a fantastic trio of bizarro tales from a great writer.

In the first story Cameron Pierce manages to turn the zombie story on its head whilst seamlessly blending a romantic tale of heroism and escape into the mix. Perhaps it can be read as a commentary on modern Western society’s desire to produce zombies and consumable products in a pseudo-religious culture full of symbolism and dark intent, or it can just be read as an absurd tale featuring cannibalism, helicopters and a goblin. The prose and characters are typically engaging of Pierce, dark humour mixed in with really quite horrific imagery.

The second story is simply a wtf kind of tale. It begins with a back-up quarterback at Heavy Metal High School being an outsider, a laughing stock almost. Oh, and he’s a werewolf. He must get in an accident, part of the initiation of the world Cameron crafts. What happens after the accident is just brilliant. A series of events leads him to his Heaven, which turns out to be not as great as he imagined, typical Pierce then. Funny, bizarre and certainly different to mainstream nondescript blocks of text. I enjoyed the story a lot. An allegory on what lengths people go to to fit in, and also why you shouldn’t meet your heroes.

The last story is a sad tale about a cycling enthusiast who wants to kill the elephants infesting his and his wife’s apartment. It veers away from that angle quite sharply, becoming seriously poignant and weird at the same time. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so go read it. It truly is fascinating and remarkable that Pierce captures such a visceral world in such a short space of words. My favourite of the three stories in this collection.

Pierce shows he has boundless imagination and a solid prose style in this book. Recommend it to pretty much everybody. The deeper themes are always sensible and interesting, only the surface may put people off. It’s a shame because Pierce deserves to be recognised as a great writer, full of wit and humour and definitely examining the human condition in profound ways. Though not as deep as his novel SHARK HUNTING IN PARADISE GARDEN, this book is probably my favourite collection of his shorter works thus far.

* The book has been recognised as one of the best bizarro short story collections of the year by being nominated for the Wonderland Book Award along with some other fantastic books! Congratulations to Cameron for his achievement!

You can get the book in paperback or for your kindle from amazon here
Or you can check out his amazon page here for his other works
Cameron’s blog is here
Cameron is also the editor of Lazy Fascist Press, an imprint of Eraserhead Press

He has a new book coming out soon titled DIE YOU DOUGHNUT BASTARDS which promises to be a sweet read.

Review of: Shark Hunting In Paradise Garden

Did you ever ask yourself the most fundamental existential question: “What would God do with a shotgun?” Suppose that Sartre was right, that we are free agents in a universe that doesn’t care if we live or die. Suppose we are free to act according to a moral compass that we are also free to change or even throw away. Why would God not also follow this most basic principle, supposing he created such a free Universe?

That’s right. Shark Hunting In Paradise Garden is that deep.

It asks just such existential questions. What, you thought that God wouldn’t suffer existential angst like the rest of us beings?

Following the crash landing of their spaceship on a trip to Eden to visit Adam and Eve, the surviving members of a religious cult are thrown into a battle for survival against some of the most bizarre creations you could imagine. This is fantasy like it should be. Sure, there’s the obligatory cave, with magic spell to create light. But the creatures that inhabit the cave? Different, for sure. Just one of a number of strange creatures that inhabit Eden. I expect that you wouldn’t have expected any of the monsters presented here to exist in a place called Paradise Garden.

He brings the garden to life with some brilliant descriptions of fantastical plants and a cast of mismatched (and sometimes mishmashed) fantasy characters: We meet a cast of wacky anthropomorphous animal characters that make up the religious cult (some of the banter between these guys is brilliant), through the eyes of the protagonist Ernest, a man who can turn things into mannequins, as well as sometimes become a toad. There are robots that are addicted to drugs, evil trees, giant sharks and more besides – fantasy enthusiasts are sure to enjoy that eclectic mix of creatures!

There is love, there is fear, there is excitement, anticipation, expectation, commitment, heroism, disappointment, stupidity, absurdity, *loads of other words to describe just about everything you could want in a story*, all blended into a beautiful tale that, as I said before, asks profound questions, and even answers some of them in quite convincing fashion.

I really recommend this book to anybody who wants to be entertained by a fun story that does ask deep questions, but also keeps things lighthearted and fun.

AMAZON LINK

Cameron Pierce’s blog

Review of: Dr. Identity by D. Harlan Wilson

Tracing lines of flight Deleuze himself would be proud of, D. Harlan Wilson transports us to a future world that is openly recognised as science fictional, like in Blade Runner, but on steroids.

Dr. Identity is a wacky satire of everything about the current socio-economic climate that could be satirised. Elements from today are twisted into sick parodies of themselves, and the result is one seriously fucked-up, and yet, perhaps sadly, recognisable world. Advertisements, materialism, the press, consumerism, government, economy, academia, fetishised violence, celebrity, all are caricatured and ridiculed in this fantastic world.

Papanazi press and pig cops, governments that hang themselves, speculative weapons that can be kept in black hole-esque pockets, to a computer generated world known as the schizoverse (where your Id can go and gratify itself by indulging in ultraviolent tendencies or sexual promiscuity (maybe both at the same time)) are all the norm in Bliptown, a seething metropolis of advertisements and jetpacking commuters, surrounded by rainforest full of imaginary creatures, creatures that none-the-less, would rip you to shreds in minutes.

Wilson leads us on an ultraviolent tour-de-force the likes of of which we haven’t seen since Mickey and Mallory Knox graced our screens. The over-the-top violence and gore are beautifully rendered, and really don’t seem out of place in the crazy world Wilson creates. Featuring speculative weapons that turn assailants (and innocent by-standers!) into cubes of meat or reduce them to cosmic soup, as well as a ridiculously nasty nazi newspaper editor that would make Ralph Fiennes feel like a little lost school girl in his labour camp, and lecturers that dish out capital punishment to student-things for being stupid, late or just rude, Wilson’s future dystopia is never short of murder, so much that its almost a piece of performance art. A graceful ballet of blood and guts pirouetting off of the page and splashing your sense organs senseless.

The culprits of the murder spree are a schizophrenic plaquedemic named Dr. Blah Blah Blah, and his ‘ganger, an android named Dr. Identity, which happens to know scikungfu and be a complete psychopath. Anti-heroic to the extreme, and yet more likeable than 99% of the other characters populating the book, Dr. Identity represents what happens when somebody like Dr. Blah Blah Blah, an under-appreciated, under-achieving, self-loathing man gets an opportunity to fulfil the desire to perfect themselves. There’s a reason capitalism blocks the flow of libido, channels it. Dr. Identity is the embodiment of that reason.

The single criticism I have for the book, is that the end felt like it came a little too soon, but maybe that was just the sadist in me being disappointed that all good things must come to an end. It certainly made sense, the resolution couldn’t really have come any other way, but it still felt like Wilson just stopped writing, and thought, let’s go and have a nice cup of tea after that amphetamine fuelled spasm.

If Deleuze and Guattari wrote novels, they’d still pale in comparison to D. Harlan Wilson.

I will definitely be reading the rest of the scikungfi trilogy, and so should you.

Book 3, The Kyoto Man comes out Decemeber 2012, so you’ve got time to get the first two down your gullet.

D. Harlan Wilson official page

amazon.co.uk page for Dr. Identity

The Kyoto Man: Scikungfi book 3

Review of: Squid Pulp Blues by Jordan Krall

cover for Squid Pulp Blues by Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall has written a fun bizarro book here.

Featuring memorable characters, fun plots (if a little predictable at points) and solid writing, I’m glad that I finally sat down and gave this book the attention that it richly deserves.

Mixing pulp noir with splatterpunk horror and sprinkling the batter with some sex fetishes and weird shit, oh yeah, and squid, Krall weaves a world across three novellas that really comes alive.

From the seedy motel setting and foot-loving antagonist of the first story, through the disfigured war vets known as “the longheads” going crazy in the second (not to mention the truly bizarre antagonist!), right up to the typical pulpy noir concept of mistaken identities and secret photos in envelopes in the last story, Krall really does well to give the town of Thompson and its messed up residents a visceral feel.

Drugs made from squids, those disfigured war vets, and some of the other characters too, as well as *that* donkey, all make appearances throughout the stories that serve to tie them together that little bit tighter, and help with creating the world seem that much more real.

Definitely recommend giving this book a read, even if you think “that’s not my usual cup of tea”, because it is so fun that you will probably come away completely converted to the worship of Little Bing Bong, the apocalypse donkey… I wonder, what does stroking a donkey that has rammed it’s head through a person feel like? Probably life-changing.

Link to book on amazon here: Squid Pulp Blues  (also available on kindle)

Jordan Krall’s blog: http://jordankrall.wordpress.com/

Review: Night Of The Assholes by Kevin L. Donihe

A change of pace today, I decided to begin reviews of great bizarro books I have read recently or am going to read in the near future. Today’s featured book is Night Of The Assholes by Kevin L. Donihe

This is only the second piece of fiction I have read by Kevin L. Donihe, the first being the brilliant short story “The Greatest Effing Moment In Sports” featured in The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange) – definitely another book worth checking out.

This work is a sublime parody of the film “Night Of The Living Dead”, with references to other cult works being thrown into the mix too (the house & Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre get honourable mentions). The genius of this work lies in the fact that Kevin takes your typical, nay, archetypal zombie story, and radically renovates it. If youve seen the film then you will know the gist of it: an outbreak of unknown origin is turning people into monsters. Only, these monsters are assholes.

The characters from the film are all present and accounted for, with subtle changes to some of them, such as the heroine, Barbara – a whimpering mess who goes crazy in the film is recast as a righteous member of the public who is really trying to control her anger problems: We find that prior to meeting her annoying Hare Krishna brother, she beats up a life size stress doll!
Taking inspiration from Dawn Of The Dead, Barbara is first accosted by the assholes in the mall, rather than a graveyard, and it is established that she could easily become one, save for her human efforts to control the assholish side of her nature. You act as an asshole to an asshole, you end up an asshole.

From there the book delves into a humourous romp that promotes the benefits of smoking marijuana as a way of avoiding becoming an asshole, or failing that, just smoking a cigarette to chill out. Featuring funny exchanges between the characters and the assholes as well as the bickering between the small band of survivors, Kevin shows he knows how to write great dialogue that is full of fun and real zing.

The house the heroes are holed up in has a very surreal structure to it, which Kevin works smoothly into the narrative so the discrepancies in the logic of the building simply go unquestioned, there is no need to question them – the story is nightmarish enough that the bizarre nature of the house seems almost a given.

Ultimately, though this book is a parody, and is definitely not short on humour, it does ask a meaningful question, this time, not about race, but about love. As Todd, the charismatic hero of the book says “Forget black and white, I think there’re only two races that have ever existed: assholes and non-assholes.” We are asked if we must fight the assholes, if that is the only way – Is it not possible to beat them by love instead?

If you enjoyed the film, you’ll really get a kick out of this book. If you read this book without having seen the film you’ll get a kick out of this book and then go see the film because you enjoyed this book so much. Also, you’ll probably want to read more of Kevin L. Donihe’s work.

Read this book. Read it! No? Wrong answer.

buy it from amazon.co.uk here:

Paperback version

you can find a list of all of Kevin’s books available at amazon.co.uk here:

Kevin’s books on Amazon