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.


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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…