Since Amazon is being a tossbag and still won’t let me post book reviews there (reviews which it would randomly delete if posted, according to some authors I’ve networked with), I’ve decided to start uploading my reviews to this site as well. This counts as fresh content, right? Anyway, here are the first two books from this year’s instalment of the New Bizarro Author Series.
“F4” by Larissa Glasser
On sale here.
If you’re looking to read a book about the trans experience, well, you’re probably not also after a book about crab-dog parasites and tentacle monsters on board a luxury cruise ship grafted into a kaiji’s body. No, F4 isn’t about “the” trans experience. It’s about a very specific experience within that whole broader spectrum of experiences – the type of personal and emotionally-charged story that can only be told through the warped glass of bizarro fiction.
The world within this horror novella is grim, gruesome and vibrant, like a swirl of different paints mixed to the point that it just starts to become a murky grey-green but with slits of the original bright colours still shining through the sludge. The mythology of this world is described just vaguely enough to evoke a certain mystique without bogging the reader down with plot points they won’t understand, although some of the real-world terminology used can be confusing if you’re out of the loop. On that note, the book could’ve used one more edit for typos, since a missing word here and there muddied my comprehension of some sentences. But it’s nothing to hold avid readers back.
The story is split into three parts, with the first and third being the strange, occult bread that holds this sandwich together. But the real meat of the story is in the tamer, more reality-based second act. This was probably my favourite segment, and it helped give a base of normalcy to the story which made the uncanny elements stand out more. There’s a fine line between “bizarreness” and “randomness”, and when a bizarro story has such a support pole of everydayness at its centre, I think it makes for better fiction because of it.
There’s certain bizarro that I’d recommend to people outside the genre’s target audience, and while F4 mightn’t be in that category due to its more extreme elements, this book is sure to please fans of the genre or anyone itching for something a little extra transgressive. Might not wanna read it on a cruise, though.
“Polymer” by Caleb Wilson
On sale here.
“We are in denial, watching our Polymer sex tapes like they are barrels full of burning trash, desperate for a bit of warmth, tainted as it might be.”
The New Bizarro Author series brings us a tale of fandom and fanboyish obsession brought to a boiling point, mixed with a neon-tinged eighties aesthetic, gothic castle-storming adventurism and body horror – with even an abstract mathematical sci-fi element being hinted at, lingering on the borders of a universe that it could at any moment crush to a pulp.
This novella makes use of some interesting methods of narration, coalescing a group of nameless, featureless fans into a single narrator, helping them and the reader to keep an eye on almost every corner of the story’s setting. It’s all quite stylistic and effective at world-building (especially towards the end, with one scene involving a journalist getting a glimpse of something esoteric and deadly and relaying it to the reader). Having said that, the dialogue from the individual fans that have been amalgamated into the narrator could have been put within quotation marks, just to help with the story’s flow.
The story could also have used a stronger human element, something deeply emotional and personal; something more than mystery and pure style to connect me to its hero. I was still hooked, make no mistake. This book conveys a tantalising sense that there’s always something weirder and more awe-inspiring around the next corner without ever giving you too much of an answer, dragging you through its narrative with a carrot on a synth-stick, until you arrive at a climax that’s explosive and unconventional even by the standards of bizarro fiction.
Now that I’ve finished reading Polymer, I feel it’s like one of those weird dreams that you want to delve deeper into but which you wake from before you can turn the surreal into sense. If you don’t mind when these dreams are mixed with some flesh-tearing, bone-crushing violence, you might want to pick it up.
I write weird and/or wonderful fiction. Find my novels here.