Thirteen Girls by Mikita Brottman

Book: Thirteen Girls

Author: Mikita Brottman

Type of Book:  Fiction, themed short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Because it made me feel a bit less odd about my own obsessions.

Availability:  Published by Nine Banded Books in 2012, you can get a copy here:

You can also buy the book directly from Nine Banded Books.

Comments: This book is deceptively simple:  Brottman wrote short stories about the deaths of thirteen young women, some killed by famous serial killers, some picked off like ducks in a row, casual victims in an ugly world.  While this is a work of fiction, the stories in this collection are based on real women and real crimes.  The stories are told from varied perspectives:  police report, perp interview, anguished mother, dieting co-worker, angry boyfriend, sole survivor.  There was a game-like element for me as I read, wondering if I could guess who the girl was and who killed her before I reached the end of the story.  Given my prior interest in serial murderers as well as just murderers in general, it was surprising I only really knew five, though several more rang some bells that didn’t ring clearly until I got to the end of the book.  One I missed was a victim of serial killer Bill Suff.  I should have known that one.  I became obsessed with trying to track down the whole text of a cookbook Suff wrote, all the more interesting because he evidently ate body parts from a few of his victims, going so far as to use a breast from a prostitute he killed in his “famous” chili recipe.  I’m not sure why I wanted a cookbook written by a serial killer cannibal – the late 90s was a weird time in my life (but I still sort of would like to have a copy…).

Shortly, I am going to discuss the two stories I liked best, but before I do, I want to discuss the overall nature of this book.  I enjoyed reading it but, at the end, I found myself feeling like the collection hit a discordant note in some of the stories.  I felt empty after I read them and felt that Brottman had missed the point somehow, that the stories were flawed because I felt flat after reading them, yet felt so engaged with some of the others.  The reason I felt that way was because I was the one who had missed the point.

If some of these stories don’t evoke emotion, it’s because they aren’t supposed to because Brottman is showing us the different windows through which we can observe brutality.  While I appreciate this collection for attempting to give the back or parallel stories associated with these murders, the casual memory of death Brottman showed in several of these stories is what makes this collection mean something more than standing as a mawkish look at dead young women.  It’s a sad reality that not all deaths are memorable and that all murders do not change those who knew, however fleetingly, the person who was killed.  The hell of it is, in terms of media and social awareness of victims, it can often seem like particular victims do not matter at all.   Sometimes the lack of interest plays out in the form of a phenomenon called “Missing White Woman” syndrome – black female abductees and murder victims don’t get the media time afforded to white female abductees and murder victims.  But on a more personal level, sometimes a murder means little to those left behind.  There is a sentimental viewpoint in some of these stories, but these stories are anything but sentimental. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: fiction, Serial Killers, Short Story Collections | on March 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Grudgepunk by John McNee

Book:  Grudgepunk

Author:  John McNee

Type of Book:  Fiction, themed short story collection, noir, transhumanism with a smidge of steampunk, horror

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Because it is the first book that contains steampunk elements that didn’t make me want to throw the book at the wall.  And he didn’t screw up the transhumanist elements of his stories.  Believe me, that’s all very odd.

Availability: Published by Bizarro Press in 2012, you can get a copy here:

 

Comments: I first encountered John McNee in 2011 when I read a relatively mediocre extreme horror short story collection.  His story was the best in the book, a dystopian, transhumanist nightmare that made the rest of the stories in the collection seem almost amateurish in comparison.  I wondered how McNee would do in longer form, if he could take the amazing world-building and characterization and keep the intensity of his monstrous characters outside of the limits of a short story length.  Turns out he can.  If I had been in a position to have a “Best of” list in 2013, this book would have been at the top of the list.  I can say with no equivocation that this is an excellent book.

Though this book is released by a bizarro imprint, I hesitate to call it bizarro.  It’s noir.  It’s trans-humanist.  It’s extreme horror.  It’s brutal and intense and at times strangely touching.  It defies classification because it is a perfect synthesis of so many different influences without becoming a pastiche.  This is not an imitation – it’s a creation.  Because I am not a person much given to steampunk or noir, I should not have liked this book as much as I do but it speaks to McNee’s skills that he mixed subgenres I don’t much care for and I still couldn’t put the book down.

Quick synopsis of the book:  In the city of Grudgehaven, we are presented with a place much like Gotham late at night combined with Sin City at all hours, with some side steps into Blade Runner and Repo: The Genetic Opera as run through a Cherie Priest novel.  Criminal syndicates are at war, wreaking havoc.  A gorgeous dame sings at a club and forms a strange friendship with a taxi driver.  A man fights to keep his ailing wife alive during a riot.  A sentient severed hand is on a mission.  Human motels, in that they are motels made of human skin, have relationships with real humans.  A writer finds herself in a sticky situation when she is hired to write the autobiography of a very bad man.  The daughter of a preacher makes a deal with a devil of sorts.  A boy made of clockworks longs to be real.  And all of these single threads weave the tapestry of The Grudge, a town without pity but with plenty of malice.

Because of that pesky second X-chromosome I have, the story of Louie, his wife, Marianne, and the lounge singer Dolores, was the price of admission part of this book, though the stories of Cynthia, the woman tasked with writing a book about the worst man in The Grudge, and Alesa, the preacher’s daughter, are both excellent.  The tale of Louie is such a great story that I am going to discuss it in depth, and mostly spoil it in the process.  I don’t like doing that but if I don’t keep myself focused on one story, I would want to write about every story in the book and this discussion would be about 40 pages long.  But I also must spoil it because spoiling it is the only way to show how excellent it is.

Louie is a cab driver who is down on his luck.  He has a sick wife and he has a lot of trouble making ends meet.  He meets a gorgeous club singer named Dolores, who gets him caught up in a surprising double-cross.  This is a story that has been told so many times that it hardly seems remarkable enough, on its face, to be one of the best stories in the collection.  The delight (and sadness) is in the details.  Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: fiction, Horror, Noir, Short Story Collections, Transhumanism | on February 27th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Sleep Has No Master by Jon Konrath

Book: Sleep Has No Master

Author:  Jon Konrath

Type of Book:  Fiction, themed short story collection, lunacy

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  I don’t even know how to tell you all the ways this book is odd.  I am mostly reminded of this Hunter S. Thompson quote:

Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ‘the rat race’ is not yet final.

Availability:  Published by Paragraph Line Books in 2012, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  This book gave me the fear.  Like I was going to go full Gonzo-paranoid and end up locking myself in the backyard shed with a gallon of whiskey and a loaded gun.  As I read parts of the book, I thought, “I wrote this.  I wrote this book and I forgot and Konrath sent it to me in some passive aggressive ruse in order to show me he has access to my thoughts and computer and probably even my medicine cabinet.”  I read the title chapter out loud to Mr. Oddbooks, who peered at me nervously from his side of the bed, no doubt wondering if I had had (another) psychotic break (there was a… problem when I read a particular Zippy the Pinhead cartoon that referenced the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile, but that was years ago).

A quick summary of the book is likely in order:  this is a short story collection that tells the tales of a dude who does stuff, sometimes alone, sometimes with his loser friends.   Through these dudes, Konrath hits on too many details of my life for this book to be legal.  Some of the topics that include details far too specific for my comfort: insomnia, unlikely car customizations, Varg Vikernes, specific conspiracy theories, a complete inability to use eye drops as a child, over-the-counter sleep aids, corpulent Asians friends, microsleep, the bizarre belief that one’s eyelashes are inverting back into one’s eyelid (mine grow sideways, toward my nose, and it’s a problem), spending most of one’s work days searching eBay listings, self-torture via medical sites, Crispin Glover, gg allin, disgust for how badly movies tended to represent computer capabilities in the 80s, the Voynich Manuscript, fear of what diet sodas may be doing to my brain, and so much more.  This book is, when I can tamp down the paranoia, deeply funny, verging on hilarious at times, but the paranoia lurks because who really could have so many weird idiosyncrasies in common unless something nefarious is happening?

The story “Sleep Has No Master” contains a paragraph that pretty much confirmed for me that Konrath needs to go to jail, the fucker, because I know I wrote this at some point:

I started researching sleep disorders online, the usual death spiral of fanatical WebMD queries, and stumbled upon something called fatal familial insomnia.  It’s an incredibly rare four-stage inherited prion disease that starts with progressively-worsening insomnia and panic attacks.  Then you dive into a wonderful world of Nixon-esque paranoia and vivid hallucinations.  By the third stage, you cannot sleep at all, and your body starts breaking down with rapid weight loss.  It all leads up to a crippling dementia, before you finally buy the farm.  Barbiturates and induced comas, which you’d think would knock you out, actually speed up the disease.  In one famous case, the doctors completely nuked the patient with heavy sedatives, but his brain would not shut down.  This is the exact kind of thing you don’t want to read at 3 AM when you’ve been awake for 40 hours straight and you’re trying  to find some homeopathic bullshit to turn off your brain for the evening.

Seriously, I am rethinking the microwave brain readers that Gloria Naylor insisted were used to read her thoughts.  You know how when your cats freak out and run frantically into the other room, only to stop immediately and then stare, wild-eyed at the wall?  I think that’s when Konrath is warming up the brain-microwave.   Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: fiction, Short Story Collections | on January 29th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

This Is Not an Odd Book Review: Biblio-Curiosa, No. 4 by Chris Mikul

Title: Bibilo-Curiosa, No. 4

Author and Editor: Chris Mikul

Availability: You need to contact Chris directly at cathob@zip.com.au. The ‘zine itself is $5 Australian, so those outside of Australia need to get a quote from him directly. For Americans, if I recall correctly, it is $8 USD an issue, shipping included.

Comments: Last year was a complete waste for me. Dozens of books were left unread, dozens of discussions never happened here. Truly pitiful. But in the spirit of not dwelling on the past and various failures, I want to begin 2014 with a discussion that is long overdue and about a writer whose work inspires me. I’ve said several times that I really envy Chris Mikul’s writing style and research expertise, and his fourth issue of Biblio-Curiosa further cements my opinion of him (I also have two books of his I really want to read and discuss this year – fingers crossed).

For those unfamiliar with Biblio-Curiosa, Mikul’s ‘zine is part book review, part in-depth research. He reads genuinely strange and obscure books and writes about them, but he also engages in deep research into the lives of various writers, sometimes trying to track down authors whose names are very nearly lost to history. Every issue is a fascinating read.

Issue 4 has four articles, and begins with a look at what can only be called a lunatic book. The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman doesn’t sound that loony on its face – just sort of pulpy. Written by Arthur N. Scarm (yes, Scarm, though it is spelled “Scram” on the title page) in 1972, it is a novelization of a Spanish film called La Noche de Walpurgis, released in the USA as The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman or Werewolf Shadow. The movies, going by title, sound cheesy enough, but as Mikul notes, the novelization is… not entirely true to its source:

…the book bears only the most passing resemblance to the film. Instead, it takes off on innumerable mad tangents of its own, and brims with cartoonish sex and violence, ludicrous dialogue and scenes that border on the surreal.

The book changes the protagonist’s name from Waldemar to Waldo, changes his personality from a shaggy, animalistic creature into an urbane, sophisticated wolf-dude, and introduces all sorts of previously unknown and probably created on-the-spot werewolf lore. It is here I feel I should mention that Waldo can do all sorts of nefarious and odd things, like shrink boobs with his mind. Montague Summers would weep if he read this book.

Waldo ends up with a vampire woman, as described in the title, but before he does he engages in all kinds of strange seduction. Take this snippet Mikul shares from the book:

Handling the girls like toys, he planted them on their backs, one on top of the other, and with Elvira on top, got on top of her. Ruth was on the bottom and he made love to her through Genevieve and Elvira, with all three girls screaming because it was so uncomfortable.

Yeah. This hilarity aside, this article gets even more interesting when Mikul looks into who “Scarm” really was.  Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: 'zines | on January 8th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

2013: The Year I Mostly Lost

I can’t even think about doing all the end of year stuff that everyone who writes about books engages in come around mid-December. Because of Houdini’s Revenge and that site I launched looking into that way-weird woman who scams everyone online, I barely even read this year. Like I am embarrassed by the paltry number of books I managed to finish. It’s pretty shameful.

I intend to remedy this because I miss being able to read. All the research into the weird woman is wearing me down. I really miss this site. I will work on my other sites, to be sure, but IROB has always been my first love and I hate that I have neglected her so.

But I have no idea when business as usual will resume. I am typing this entry at 4:00 in the morning in the dark as my mother sleeps in her hospital bed. Some people could work in this situation, but I can’t. I’m popping acid reducer pills and thinking about re-reading the Harry Potter books because my brain is too tired for much else.

But life settles down. It always does. So I will be back when I can be back. Just keep me in your readers or bookmark me or whatever. I will be back, hopefully soon.

Published in: Uncategorized | on December 18th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Got Me Wrong by Kevin Akstin

Book:  Got Me Wrong

Author:  Kevin Akstin

Type of Book:  Fiction, short story collection, gently weird

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  It’s not the full-bore weird I generally discuss on this site, but it is one of those books that is neither fish nor fowl.  It’s not lit fic but it’s not wholly experimental.  Complete inability to classify a work is often a very good sign it is strange in some manner.

Availability:  Self-published on the Lulu platform in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  Before I begin this discussion, I want to point something out about this self-published book:  it is far better edited than most books that come from small and even large publishers.  When I received this book in the mail and saw it was self-published, I had a small twinge of trepidation before reading it.  My distaste for the increasingly slap-dash efforts that go into editing books is hopefully well-known by now and I feared I would have to gently tell yet another aspiring writer that I could not discuss his or her book because the editing was so bad all I would be able to do would be to savage it.  Sometimes I like savaging books, but most of the time I don’t enjoy it and will not throw the same disgust I lob at say, Edward Lee, at a new and struggling writer.  It was such a relief that such concerns did not play out with Akstin’s book.  It is impeccably edited.  Some of the spacing and indentations in my copy are a bit off but when the grammar is spot on, I can overlook wonky paragraph alignment.

One day I will weaken and stop beating this drum, but reading poorly edited books is a chore.  I don’t like it when reading is a chore.  Proper editing elevates even the most mundane novels and it certainly helped Akstin’s  stories.  Akstin’s writing style is not one that I am fond of, but clean writing goes a long way in making even that which is not my cup of tea something I am willing to drink.  Though I think these stories would have been more memorable had there been more immediacy, I can also admit that applying my specific tastes to these stories and finding them lacking would be a disservice to Akstin’s goal because even as he writes of miserable, desperate people, he is telling the stories of very disconnected people.  Immediacy and emotional depth would have spoiled that necessary disconnection.  This book is full of addiction, fault memory, aborted and lost children, and brutal fights, and the muffled way the characters experience these traumas ring as distant as a Carver story but without the minimalism.

When I read this collection, I didn’t feel kinship with the stories. Despite having a glimpse into the lives of strangers, at times intimate looks, I never felt like a voyeur, looking through windows with a telescope.  I felt like a clinician peering at slides under a microscope. It’s the distance in the prose that created that feeling.  In this collection of 16 stories, Akstin presents a common theme of madness, guilt and a great desire for atonement with a creepiness that permeates all the stories.  What made these stories interesting is that even as you feel like a dispassionate observer, there is a maddening yet compelling fuzziness to some of his endings that forces you to interpret the story, further driving home that reading his work is an act of interpretation, not connection.  You are looking at the disease cells under a slide, not talking to the patient.

There were a few stories in the collection, as in all short story collections, that worked better than others.  To keep this from becoming overlong, I’ll limit myself to the stories I liked best.  Be warned: there will be spoilers. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: fiction, Gently weird, Short Story Collections | on October 17th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

2013: The Year Wherein I Realized My Limitations and Ignored That Realization

So, I launched two websites this year: Houdini’s Revenge and Truth About Ruth. I enjoy writing for both of them and both of them require a ton of research on the front end and wonderful organizational skills on the back end. I can research like a champ but the sheer volume of comments and e-mails has been… sobering? a stark reminder of why it is a very good thing I never had children? It’s hard to say, but after spending 4 days doing nothing but responding to e-mails from TAR, I have to wonder if even a really organized person with excellent time management skills would have been able to cope.

At any rate, IROB is still my favorite of my three sites because it was my first real site and I feel really crappy that I have neglected it so much lately.

I have great stuff in the pipeline. In the next few weeks I hope to have up discussions of books by Kevin Akstin, Mikita Brottman, John McNee, Jon Konrath and others. I am working on an essay for another venture, a discussion wherein I apply the aesthetics of disgust to various bizarro novels. The Jim Goad ANSWER Me! discussion is also back on the table now that my “unpleasantness” is over. Not sure when that will happen but I am betting we’ll see it sometime in early 2014.  It’s going to be a monster in terms of sheer word count so I promise that it will be worth the wait, if only in terms of volume.

I also have what I hope to be a very interesting look at books about disappearances in the national parks system. David Paulides, a Bigfoot researcher and former law enforcement officer, wrote two really fascinating books (actually, there is a third I have not yet read) about strange disappearances in various parks and the institutional stonewall and incompetence he encountered when he tried to get information about many of these disappearances. This discussion will be for Houdini’s Revenge but a lot of readers here may enjoy it.

And of course I will be cranking out content for Truth About Ruth. I had no idea it would become this massive of a research effort when I launched the site, and as of right now I don’t know if I will ever see the end of this woman’s scams and machinations. It fascinates me and is very interesting to me, but it also stabs my life in the face. Surely, as an adult with a ton of time on my hands, I will find a way to balance all the things I enjoy doing online.

On a completely unrelated note, my birthday last month was pretty much just another day – I’ve never been much of one to celebrate my birthdays in a big way.  Dinner and book shopping is the maximum of what I am willing to do just because the clock ticked off another year. However, Mr. Oddbooks got me this:

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It’s Captain Koons from Pulp Fiction, explaining the legend of the watch to my late cat, Adolph.  He commissioned it from Ruth Marcus, a woman who specializes in painting your pets with various celebrities.  Truly, this is the best gift anyone ever gave me.  He got it professionally framed and I plan to hang it tomorrow.  Adolph’s been dead for over three years and I still haven’t really gotten used to the idea he is gone.  He was a remarkable animal.  And he would have wanted to see a watch that spent five years up one man’s ass, two years up another’s.  And we all know how I feel about Christopher Walken.

I also wanted to thank everyone who recently used my Amazon Affiliate link when they made purchases on Amazon. I really appreciate it!

See you all later this week.  Let me know how you’ve all been doing!

Published in: Uncategorized | on October 7th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

A Greater Monster by David David Katzman

Book:  A Greater Monster

Author:  David David Katzman

Type of Book: Fiction, experimental, indescribable

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: The reasons are numerous and many.

Availability:  Published by Bedhead Books in 2011, you can get a copy here:

You can also order this book from The Strand.

Comments:  Jesus Christ.  The best way I can begin this book discussion is to dare every single one of you to buy the book and read it.  I add the dare so that your pride forces you to get the book lest you seem the sort person who shies away from a challenge.  I need you to feel your honor is at stake.  However, it will be a dare you will be glad you took.  A Greater Monster is a book you will need to read at least twice, and even then you will be able to pick it up a third, fourth and fifth time and right around page 40 you will feel like you are reading a new book again.  Given that this book has 367 pages, that’s a bargain.  In a sense, you will get a new book every time you read it.  So really, it’s an economical dare.

The best way to describe the book is to call it experimental fiction because after the first 40 pages or so, it defies any traditional narrative.  It’s a drug trip that has a beginning of sorts but no real end.  The protagonist slides from one hallucinogenic experience to another, each itself having no beginning and no real end.  It’s disorienting and peculiar.  But at the end it is a religious experience for the protagonist, a deeply personal descent into the unreal and irreal that make it almost alienating to read.  The protagonist wants this trip into a world that has no meaning – if he doesn’t experience real meaninglessness, his life will become even more meaningless.   And each trip he experiences means only to me what I assign to it because there is no meaning once the trips begin.  Only experience.  A nauseating but ordered beginning turns into the protagonist careening in unordered experiences.

I had to read this book in a manner similar to the way I read House of Leaves.  The first time I read it in bits and pieces.  It’s a dense text and, without any linearity of plot, I don’t recommend reading through it in one attempt the first time you read it.  I honestly don’t know if the book would do you any good reading it all at once.  It would be like experiencing someone else’s delusions.  Before my senior year of high school, I developed pneumonia and had such a high fever I began to hallucinate.  My mother found me in the hallway, waiting in line to go to the bathroom.  Evidently I was convinced Chinese laborers were using the house as a rooming house and we all shared the same toilet.  I could see odors as colors and felt sure there were cows hiding in my room, producing methane gas that manifested as the color orange.  Small blue people ran across my bedsheets, warning me I needed to sit up or I would die.  My books spoke in foreign languages, the mirrors showed me unseen rooms in the house, and when I later told all of this to the doctor, he flat out did not believe me.  My mother told him, with no small amount of anger, that all of that had happened and I still don’t think he believed us.

I hallucinate now with very low fevers and most medical personnel give me the side eye when I report it.  I seldom say anything anymore.  I’ve had a couple of nurses tell me they do the same thing but mostly I know I am not believed.  I used to be offended by it but now I know better.  The fever dreams and hallucinations of one man can never really resonate with others unless they, by chance, had the same fevered dream, the same tendency to hallucinate, the same peculiar mindset.  That sort of cross-over seldom happens and you find yourself wondering how anyone could see a cow’s flatulence. And that’s why you need to read this book in little bits at first.  Otherwise the protagonist’s experiences will become too much as you try to make sense of them.  In smaller bits you won’t try to find the common thread, the element that links all these stories together.  There may be one but because this is not my hallucination, my drug trip, my terrible fever, the thread is elusive at best.

It took me several months to finish this book the first time.  I would back up and try to connect everything I was reading but ultimately that was a loser’s bet.  You just have to read in snippets and when you are finished, let it digest and then read it all in one go.  This book is a bizarre, at times alienating experience and that may sound unappealing but actually it was quite divine.  It was like taking a vacation into someone else’s mind.  It was a violent, unnerving, disjointed trip into utterly foreign fever hallucinations and that experience is enjoyable and frightening and fun if you don’t try to force it to make any linear sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Experimental Fiction, fiction, Indescribable | on September 3rd, 2013 | 3 Comments »

The Bizarro Story of I by Wol-vriey

Book: The Bizarro Story of I

Author: Wol-vriey

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: There are many reasons…

Availability: Published by Bizarro Press in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This book may not be the best bizarro book I have ever read, but it employs one of the best mindfucks that I’ve encountered in this genre. And it’s amazingly simple. The protagonist is named I and the book uses a third person narrative. That really is a pretty simple device, but it forces the reader to pay attention because if your mind wanders the slightest, you find yourself reading a first person novel. But it’s not a first person novel. And you will lose track of that several times as you read this book.

It’s such a strange way to write a book yet so perfect I’m surprised I haven’t seen this before.

Here’s a quick synopsis, as well as anyone can summarize a book like this: I is married to a woman called Anorexia, who is the secret daughter and heir to a kingdom run by horrible, body-building weirdos called the Steroid Cowbiys. She is kidnapped one day and I goes on a quest to find her. He loses his mouth early on and is forced to type out his end of the conversations he has. The plot, like the name trope, is simple – man goes in search of his lady-love, who is in peril. As with all bizarro, the bizarro is in the details. There’s almost an Alice in Wonderland thing going on in this book. I genuinely do not have a chance in hell of explaining the details of this book with anything approaching brevity – they are just that involved and bizarre. I meets a weird little mouse thing called Chocolate Mousse, who corners the market on rat poison and warehouses it so it can’t be used to kill him. I meets a weird fish-woman hybrid called Girlzilla who helps him but also proves to be a bit strange in her own right. He does battle with the family of body-building weirdos and sort of saves his wife but his quest doesn’t end the way you would think. And of course, there is a whole lot more to it than that, but just think of it as a love quest sprinkled with characters that would have deeply disturbed Lewis Carroll.

This book is horribly edited. It would not have made my ten error cut off, but I had read it before I made that declaration, hence this review. But this was also one of the first books released by Bizarro Press. More recent offerings show a vast improvement in regards to editing. But still, this book has a lot of errors. I have to mention it because that’s just who I am. But those who tend not to notice these sorts of things are unlikely to find this book any worse than any other bizarro offering. Just getting this out of the way so I can discuss the rest of the book to my satisfaction.

The use of “I” as a name really is quite interesting because it forces the reader to interact deeply with the text. It reads completely naturally but in the middle of sentences I found myself wondering who the “I” referred to and remembered, “Oh yeah, it’s the protagonist’s name.” In a third person narrative, it should be all the clearer that all those mentions of “I” are referring to the title character but even as I read the last pages, I still had difficulty remembering that simple fact.  Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Bizarro Fiction, fiction, Uncategorized | on August 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

TV Snorted My Brain by Bradley Sands

Book: TV Snorted My Brain

Author: Bradley Sands

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s a retelling of the Arthurian myths using a sullen teenager, a sleazy wrestler, and a mystical television remote.

Availability: Published by LegumeMan books in 2012, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  This is a book you will either love or hate.  I don’t think there can be much gray area.  The reason for this is because this book relies on a teenaged narrator, a particularly stupid teenaged narrator whose brain is given to repetition.  Lots of repetition.  I suspect a real teenager would find this book interminable.  But if you can remember yourself when you were annoying as the day was long, yammering about ANARCHY and hating everyone around you because they were norms, you may find Artie Pendragon as funny as I did.

This book is a retelling of the King Arthur story using ridiculous suburban schmoes in the place of heroic figures.  Excalibur is a remote control and Camelot is inside a television.  When Artie’s father dies and his mother marries his uncle, no one can work the television until one night Artie uses the Excalibur 3000 to navigate the TV and his entire family finds themselves sucked into a netherworld wherein actors really are inside the television.  Artie has to engage in a struggle against his stepfather and little sister as he hunts for the Holy Grail.  Can he save the land in the television?  Can he achieve his goal of anarchy?  Can he get his wife back from his stepfather and take his place as the rightful ruler?  Will his struggles be so silly that it makes the mythos of Arthur seem like little more than the backdrop to a Bill and Ted film?  The only question I will answer for you is the last one and I think you know what the answer is.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is told from the perspective of an irritating and somewhat uninteresting teenager, a teenager upon whom fate has thrust greatness of sorts.   Through showing examples of Artie’s thought processes, I can demonstrate how simple and repetitive he is and, in my opinion, utterly hilarious.  Here’s a scene wherein he is watching his younger sister playing in a soccer game:

I sit in a folding beach chair on the sidelines, watching my little sister play out on the field.  The chair is uncomfortable.  A strip of polyester fabric is poking me in the ass.  I do not like to be poked in the ass.  But it is worth being poked in the ass.  It is a really great pee wee soccer game.  It is total anarchy, super-retardo anarchy awesomeness.  It is the most anarchist thing on Earth.

Oh wait, I forgot about riots in the streets.

But riots in the streets don’t have little girls picking up clumps of grass out of the ground instead of defending their goal, little girls chasing butterflies instead of the ball, little girls tripping over the ball, little girls kicking the ball into the wrong goal, little girls calling their opponents cuntbags, little girls screaming as they run away from the ball.

Riots in the streets don’t have soccer moms.  Riots on the streets don’t have soccer dads.  Riots on the streets don’t have riots between soccer moms and soccer dads over pee wee soccer games.  Riots in the streets are over real world issues.  Real world issues are fucking lame.

I say it out loud, “Real world issues are fucking lame.”

This is a long quote but I throw it out here because it’s a litmus test.  If you find this particular style of writing annoying, you will want to stop reading here and give this book a miss.  But if you find this strangely charming and exactly like the tiresome kid you sat next to in health class, the one who scrawled Anarchy! symbols all over his Trapper Keeper and quoted Metallica lyrics back before they “sold out” and totally did not give a fuck, you’ll enjoy the rest of this book.  And this really is the bulk of the book – the Arthurian myth as filtered through the mind and life of a kid who will remind you a bit of Dermott from The Venture Brothers.  There are the usual fantastic elements that accompany bizarro books but this book is quite simple in its execution – teenage dirtbag as King Arthur.  And because it is so simple, I think the best way to show how great this book is is by quoting passages. Read the rest of this entry »

Published in: Bizarro Fiction, fiction | on July 23rd, 2013 | 3 Comments »