Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Steel Breakfast Era by Carlton Mellick III

It's Naked Lunch meets Dawn of the Dead in this postmodern post-apocalyptic zombie nightmare by cult bizarro author Carlton Mellick III. Hundreds of years have passed since the living dead conquered the Earth. Surviving humans have been reduced to vermin, breeding like cockroaches in ancient fortified high-rise apartment buildings. Those who are still lingering in the shadowy waste have either gone completely insane or become infested with parasites that mutate flesh into steel-string sculptures. There is nothing left to live for, no hope for any kind of future. Only the long wait for death remains. But one man refuses to die just yet. He must first find a wife, somebody who will love him, so that he doesn't have to die alone. And he won't give up until he finds this person, even if he has to build a woman himself using the scrap body parts that litter the hallways. Told in Mellick's early schizophrenic prose style, Steel Breakfast Era is perhaps the most surreal zombie apocalypse story ever told.



Mellick’s introductions always articulate the book’s intent; I mention this because after reading the intro to Steel Breakfast Era, I felt like the story was the perfect rendition of the influences and concepts the author cited. Mellick always provides plenty of vivid action in his work, but I felt like I was reading a graphic novel that didn’t need pictures, because the author explained what those pictures looked like in concise, fast-moving prose. 

I bought this book solely because it’s supposed to highlight a variation of the author’s writing style, and I was treated to some beautiful, horrific “pictures.” Each chapter was a portrait. Zombies, sex, violence; all of these concepts are bluntly stated with frantic sentences that portray a lucid, dream-like setting. This is David Lynch’s interpretation of Anime. Mellick bombards the reader with ideas and mysteries that seem to mirror something incomplete, like the seemingly unfinished people who are built or modified by the technology-infused survivors of a dying world. The characters in this book are not “human” in the way we might understand or identify, but their intentions and desires are all-too real, and desperate. It’s this desperation, and a feeling of desolation, that keeps this story from becoming as cold and lifeless as the zombie menace. 

Our protagonist wants what the majority of us want; love, or a sense of belonging. A sense of being complete. With masterfully fragmented sentences which describe a broken future, I felt like the entire composition fulfilled the promise in Mellick’s introduction. A cyberpunk splatterfest that fuses William Gibson with Shinya Tsukamoto, The Steel Breakfast Era is a feast for the eyes, at least until the tik-worms seize control… 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: House of Houses by Kevin L. Donihe

There once was an odd reclusive little man who was in love with his house. He loved this house not in the way that normal people love their homes. His was a more intimate love, like the love between two humans. He loved his house so much that he asked it to marry him, and he believed that his house happily replied with a yes. Unfortunately, their love was to be torn apart the day before their wedding, on the day of the great house holocaust. On this day, every house in the world collapsed for no explainable reason. It was as if they killed themselves, and took many of their occupants with them. Distraught and despairing over the death of his fiancée, this man must go on a quest to find out what happened to his beloved home. On his quest: He will meet Tony, a self-declared superhero, who looks kind of like a black Man-At-Arms from the old He-Man cartoons and claims to protect the world from quasi-dimensional psychopomps with his powerful sexpounding abilities. He will meet Manhaus, who seems to be part man and part house. And, finally, he will venture to House Heaven, a world where houses live inside of bigger houses made of people.



With something new and interesting appearing on every page, Donihe’s House of Houses reads like an assault of concepts, each idea seemingly fitting into a puzzle. Maybe that comparison isn’t correct; perhaps the ideas are bricks which build a house, although the book itself is the house and there isn’t a blueprint that clearly defines what the book should look like. Each page constructs a world upon a world, or a house upon a house. 

The book is something of an odyssey; though the story’s length is relatively short, the first chapter seems distant by the time you’re finished reading. Somehow, Donihe manages to bend time; one man’s journey to House Heaven to find his beloved—a house named Helen—is unique in its presentation and scope. Each page seemed to present another question, and I kept turning the pages to find answers I didn’t necessarily need. I felt as if I were discovering a world Donihe didn’t design; there’s a sense of place that collides with the surreal as if the book is a collage of dreams stolen by Sigmund Freud from a dozen of his most demented patients. By sharing some of the images in this book, I would ruin part of its charm and mystery. 

The beating heart of this story involves subtle commentary on relationships, government, reality, and sexuality, to name a few of the ideas that are challenged. Dark humor quirky enough to provoke smirks and laughter from the audience didn’t provoke a “that’s funny” reaction for me, but rather, I felt these moments or images in House of Houses provided the mortar between the story’s layered bricks. I felt as if I were witnessing the Dystopian nightmare of a post-industrial society. Based on my calculations, the book is scored at 4.86 stars, rounded up for review purposes. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Moosejaw Frontier by Chris Kelso

Juan wakes up in the racist town of Moosejaw after suffering a near fatal snake bite. As he battles for the right to live he begins experiencing vivid nightmares of a symbiotic dream-twin who seems determined to take over complete control of Juan's existence. 'Moosejaw Frontier' is a terrifying journey through the various plateaus of reality, fiction, and one man's intrinsic desire to become more than just a minor character...



An experimental fantasy that is an exercise in metafiction and an entertaining examination of a writer’s psychosis, Kelso’s novella dares to challenge the boundaries of imagination. This book has something of a coherent “plot,” but this “story” isn’t going to give you cuddly characters or anything close to a conclusion. A writer’s conflict with reality is presented here; the characters are incarnations of ideas, rough-sketches of incomplete people and events that linger on the threshold of time and space. 

The book is rather short; I found myself turning pages quickly because I wanted to see what Kelso would do next, and I wanted to know where the fragmented narrative would lead. Just as in life, there is no true “ending” to a story that extends into forever. Different writing styles are also used in this piece; if writing and art are nothing more than self-indulgent habits and needs expressed by the artist, here is self-indulgence that is aware of itself.

This is bizarro fiction. Don’t read this book if you’re looking for the same, recycled stories that are published on a daily basis. Read this book for its ability to challenge what you believe about your own self-awareness. 

Monday, September 9, 2013



What inspires you? Possibly the worst question to ask an artist. The grass might have some logical explanation to describe why it grows. Maybe the hungry dog can diagram why it’s interested in eating horse feces. What inspires you. Yes. What. Not a question. Consider what as a noun.


Let’s take a step back from this venomous charade. I never claimed to be an artist, nor do I revel in the notion that I know what my words mean. What. What it is. What is it? Is it what? It is what.


Flesh and emotion are the composite of nightmares and the imprint of causation; a glimpse into the mirror reveals sentences that exist only in your eyes, or memory. Each of us, behind a veil of self, is a martyr and a hero. How does art compose itself from hands or mouths, from hearts and blood? Letting words appear from fingers, a symbiosis of computer and palm, the mind bleed appearing as a metaphorical middle-finger for Descartes and all his resolutions, because he thought, therefore he was. What was he?


The motivation for causation, inspired by the ultimate what. “I’m a failure… Nobody is buying me books… I’m not making money… The reviewer doesn’t get ME!” Extend the martyr complex to Mount Olympus, where we wish to find ourselves, perched. Validation appears in the form of numbers, and those numbers validate an existence predicated on worship. “LOVE MY WORDS!” How grateful thou art.


Is it art if nobody sees it, or reads it? Is it art if nobody buys it? Are you defined by the words of others? What comes with money and fame? “The SUNSET inspires me…”

But does the sunset know it fulfills a purpose, that it’s a function of cognition?


Of what use is art when the martyr becomes a god? There may be nothing more to say, but there will be plenty to do and plenty to protect. Forgive those who want to change the world, for they are rebels; not revolutionaries, for we must look upon them with derision. Why do anything when everyone has already done it all? Why try anything new when there is no material benefit, no consequence or reward that can be presented like a triumphal arch over the city streets that long to be purged of your essence?


Once we have answers, we must find another question. Once we’ve colonized a continent, we must colonize the stars. Immortality is just a few million dollars out of our reach.


A beautiful woman inspires me, a beautiful man inspires me. A half moon, an empty moon, a desert on fire, a cave filled with the bones of dead explorers (liars, all). What is there to inspire. Not a question. Elm trees trapped in ice and shipped to Pluto; a football in the hands of a warrior who wasn’t supposed to walk; a woman who kneels for a cause that no longer exists, only to be branded a heretic in the name of that cause.


What inspires.