Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- The State of Shock Totem Publications, or We Are Not ChiZine Publications
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
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Tag Archives: Memento
I like my fiction on the strange side. Sometimes, really strange. The Mind Is a Razorblade, by Max Booth III, is damned strange. And now I’m beginning to think Booth is a little strange as well.
That’s a good thing.
The book opens with a man waking on the muddy banks of a river. He is naked and there are two dead bodies and a police car present. He has absolutely no idea who he is, who the dead are and what the hell lead to this scene. Stealing a coat from one of the deceased, he makes his way on a quest for identity and to solve the puzzle of who he is and why he ended up here.
He arrives in the city to see roaming groups of deranged individuals, jabbering crazies, and the Harvies, gruesome specters of death that only some can see, and that seem to dog our hero’s every step. He encounters people from his past, even though he doesn’t remember them. He discovers things about the present and the past and finds out that not everyone is who—or what—they seem. He hides from ghosts and demon gods. He also has the ability to blow shit up with his mind when he gets really angry.
All of these things (and brain spiders) are the ingredients to a stylistic and extremely bizarre noir-venture that reads like a David Lynch directed version of Memento—but with brain spiders and bunny slippers. It’s almost ridiculous until the grit settles and then it gets tense and brutal.
A man with no memory and thus no identity is the most pitiful and terrifying of characters and Booth nails his journey with a deft hand. When he encounters people he knew or who know him, the reaction is rendered with a sense of realism that is so well done, you can almost smell the exasperation.
Having read Booth’s novel Toxicity, I was sure I knew what to expect here but I was wrong. While I loved this book as much as I did the other, they’re quite differing creatures. Wherein Toxicity was funny and smart and almost satirical in its dissection of segments of society and cultural expectations, The Mind Is a Razorblade is a violent and bleak film unwittingly shot by a dashboard camera in an abandoned police car. It has a grimy vibe that permeates and settles on the skin like ashes or oil. I mean this as a compliment.
The Mind Is a Razorblade is available through Kraken Press.
I would like to start and say I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of “series” novels. I have too short of an attention span to commit to that sort of thing, usually. I would now like to thank—and damn—Gary McMahon for making me eat those words.
I have recently read the two books comprising his Thomas Usher series, and can only hope for more. With a series, character is key, and Gary gives us some incredible examples.
In the first of the pair, Pretty Little Dead Things, we meet Thomas Usher, a broken man reeling from the loss of his wife and daughter. He survives the accident that claimed his family with a gift—or a curse depending on your perception. He can see the recently deceased, and it ain’t pretty. Trying to remain on the periphery of society, he does odd psychic investigative work and crosses paths with some seedy and unpleasant people. He wears a uniform of tattoos: a list of names of the dead he feels he has failed.
When he lands a job trying to find the culprit behind the strange murder of a gangster’s daughter, it changes him forever.
His gift proves to be his strongest weapon and weakest link, as he walks the blurred line between our world and a much darker fringe dimension. Where evils, both human and cosmic, are on his tail and where things are decidedly not as they seem.
Dead Bad Things picks up months after the Pretty Little Dead Things’s conclusion, and cleverly features sideline characters from that first novel and brings them forward for deeper scrutiny.
Our reluctant hero begins this chapter of the series in a London slum, waking up to the ringing of the telephone in a haunted house. A robotic voice directs him and starts him on a sloping path of horrific crimes and disturbing visions. Someone is killing children, drilling holes in their heads. People are not as they seem. Usher will discover many things along the way, nasty vile things.
Now, I gave away very little, because to do so would be a blasphemy. You must read McMahon’s engaging words, his descriptive flair for painting dreary and haunting visions behind our eyes. His rundown neighborhoods and scumbag dives are so repulsive, I felt the fleas crawling on my skin. The baddies are really bad and the good guys are sometimes bad as well. Nothing is ever really what you seem to think it is, and when you think you’ve got it sussed, you’re wrong. I love that.
I was at work, on lunch break, when I was finishing this book. A kid asked me what it was about, and as I started explaining his eyes began to glaze. I knew I was losing him, so I said, “It’s like an unholy cocktail of The Sixth Sense, Memento and Wire in the Blood…with an ounce of Hellraiser.” I got the impression that was lost on him as well. Sigh…
Both of these titles are available from Angry Robot Books.