This book is a collection of three novellas that neatly fit inside the bizarro genre. By neatly fit, I mean they’re each foul, absurd, and deranged. This is the sort of fiction where a man makes love to a giant, rotting finger while it rains treacle outside. Although not a bad thing in and of itself, I felt the stories served the genre, rather than the other way around, which undermined their impact and left them more a novelty than the sort of fiction that sticks with you.
First, let’s be clear: these stories are strange and disgusting. Ample amounts of sewage, bodily functions, and foul language punctuate each story, although more the first two stories more than the third. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing: when the author uses the gross-out factor well, he makes interesting point and jars the reader to attention. It’s a powerful tool.
The problem is that the genre seems to demand this particular tool’s overuse, so it quickly becomes mundane in the context of the story. Of course the main character has to swim in a pool of feces, it’s the genre! It wasn’t really until the third story that I felt the author consistently used foul language and disgusting scenarios well. Once he did, they drove home the point of the story and did more than just shock for shock’s sake.
The second issue that stood out was the pacing: the stories tended to ramble then break into headlong dashes. I particularly felt the first story, following a former teacher turned mad scientist, started with a great deal of promise then dragged on as the author tried to throw every absurd thing he could think of into the story. It got a few laughs out of me, but by the end it’d worn thin.
The third issue, present more in the first two stories than the third, was that there really wasn’t a point to the story until the author declares it right at the end. It’d be like a comedian telling a depressing story about a dead child then screaming “Laugh, monkeys, laugh!” at the end of it. It’s not to say that the stories didn’t have a few entertaining moments, but on the whole they felt more like the author was experimenting with the genre, or kowtowing to it, with little concern for the stories themselves beneath the malarkey.
All of that said, the third novella in the book was the best by far. It was structured, I had an idea what it was about, and all of the grimy details really drove home the point of the story. There were parts where it detoured, but on the whole the author made the genre work for his story and did so in a provocative way. My favorite part of it was when the main character, an astronaut slowly being driven insane by his isolation, asks Mission Control if it loves him, then asks the same of the ship’s vacuum. He was the first character that felt like a person, not a caricature of one.
To be honest, I hadn’t encountered this genre until I read these stories, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt to compensate for my ignorance. Additionally, the third story in the collection demonstrated how the genre could be effectively used as more than a novelty. Unfortunately, the first two stories reveled in the genre and lost themselves somewhere along the way. I give the book a 3/5.
I’d recommend taking a gander if you have a strong constitution and a desire to experience something peculiar.