Tag Archives: bizarro

Book Review: Pax Titanus

Pax TitanusPax Titanus by Tom Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Titanus is a Veritassian, an alien that is ten feet tall, has four arms, can only speak the truth, and can grow and shrink any part of his body at will. ANY part (being that this is a bizarro book, I’ll leave that bit up to your imagination). When his son is “kidnapped,” the kidnappers force him to enter a galactic gladiatorial contest featuring lots of weird aliens that could only spring from the mind of a deranged lunatic.

Tom Lucas’ Pax Titanus tells this story and tells it well. Then again, this book isn’t for those looking for a terribly in-depth story. The real feature of this book is the increasing amounts of alien carnage and detailed fight scenes to sate the reader’s inner blood lust. The story is more there to move the action along.

The characters are quirky, from Titanus’ inability to tell a lie to his wife (who’s a squid) communicating by secreting emotional ooze based on what she’s feeling. Right? Right. The book is the usual short length for an entry in the New Bizarro Authors Series. In this case, that works well. Lucas is forced to economize and doesn’t waste any time on extraneous details. He focuses on what’s important and gets to the point, which prevents the reader from screaming, “Get to the point!”

Graphic, violent, and simple, Pax Titanus still holds charm and does have a surprise ending. While this type of book isn’t always my cup of tea, it was still a fun read that kept my attention and does make the inner child squeal with joy at the copious amounts of mindless violence. Or is that just me? My inner child might be a little disturbed.

If I have a main complaint, it’s that this book could have used another pass the editor. Basic mechanical mistakes bug me enormously and are a pet peeve, and I have to knock the book down a little for that.

An enjoyable and short read that reminds one of a summer action flick, Pax Titanus definitely scratches a certain itch, although admittedly it may not be an itch that everyone has. If you like excessive amounts of literary violence not counting those brutal writers’ conferences, then Pax Titanusis definitely worth your time.

Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas earns 4 out of 5 bludgeoned skulls.

Book Review: 8-Bit Apocalypse

8-Bit Apocalypse8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Jimmy is a loser. Stuck in a dead-end job at Chuck E. Cheese, he constantly listens to whisper videos on his phone to soothe his crippling social anxiety while he cleans vomit out of the play tubes. Then the apocalypse happens. A giant mutated Atari cartridge begins attacking Denver by bringing classic games to life, such as Centipede, Frogger, and Space Invaders (although “E.T.” is absent because that game was so horrible that the cartridge would likely self-destruct; seriously, it’s a cancer!). Now it’s up to Jimmy, who is the only one who has figured out what’s going on and knows how to play the games in order to stop the apocalypse.

This is the story behind 8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings, part of this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series. This is always a fun series and I look forward to it every year because it brings us new and experimental voices in fiction, and it’s always interesting to see what stories new authors can come up with and how they choose to tell those stories.

In 8-Bit Apocalypse, Jimmy is a very flawed but identifiable character. The reader can easily feel sorry for him and can root for him, although at times one might feel like they want to reach into the page and slap some sense into him. In that case, the novella length of this book is probably a good thing, as a character like Jimmy would have a very difficult time carrying a full-length novel. Most of the other characters are fairly two-dimensional and tend to simply stand there taking video of the events with their phones, but they don’t need more characterization for the purposes of the story. This is Jimmy’s story, and the other characters are there merely to give something for Jimmy to play off of.

The story is decent, if a a bit inconsistent. The action tends to get a little jerky and doesn’t have the smoothest of flows, but then again most of the action takes place within living Atari games, so this smoothness is relative. The ending seems very anticlimactic at first glance. But when one thinks about it (and it’s also explained within the text), it’s actually the most appropriate ending one can be given with this kind of a story and its theme.

I know that 8-bit anything is trendy right now, but it has a soft spot in my heart because I grew up in the age of Atari. Those games were simple yet had a certain elegance that stuck with the players and are remembered fondly to this day. 8-Bit Apocalypse is similar. The characters aren’t complicated, and neither is the plot (there’s not really any mystery or anything unanswered), and even seems a little by-the-book. At the same time, this gives the book a simple elegance that manages to stick with the reader for a while after they finish. Whether this will still be remembered fondly 30 years from now like the Atari games referenced within remains to be seen. But the book is simple yet satisfying in its own way, providing a solid story and characters that provide a modern literary look down an electronic memory lane.

8-Bit Apocalypse earns 3.5 whisper videos out of 5.

Book Review: The Mondo Vixen Massacre

The Mondo Vixen MassacreThe Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Okay, I’m just going to say it: Jamie Grefe needs to lay off the caffeine, or cocaine, or whatever he’s on.

The Mondo Vixen Massacre is Jamie Grefe’s entry into this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series, a series I look forward to every year as it brings new and experimental voices in fiction. Grefe’s entry is…unique, to say the least.

The book begins with Tom Clay being graphically tortured in every way you can possibly imagine and then some. Vixens of every type have broken into his house, murdered his son, kidnapped his wife, tortured Tom, and left him for dead. But he’s not dead. Thus begins a bloody tale of rescue and revenge as he attempts to recover his wife from the vixens’ clutches and maybe find out why they targeted him and his family to begin with.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the writing style. Aside from just being graphically violent (Grefe shies away from nothing), the book is told in a stream-of-consciousness with constant action. Actually, it’s more like reading the transcript for a high-energy pitch for an action movie, music cues and camera shots included. This is where things get interesting, both potentially good and bad, like a Schrödinger’s novel. Before I get into that, I need to explain about the plot and characters.

The characters are there. They’re well-drawn for their purpose, but not much beyond that and can be a bit shallow and two-dimensional. As for the plot, it’s there although without a whole lot of mystery that isn’t easy to solve. Now, I need to go back to my point in the last paragraph, because again this is not necessarily bad, depending on your point of view.

The way the plot and characters serve about as much purpose as in a porn movie. They’re there mostly because the audience expects them to be, and they provide a reason to drive the action. But it’s really the action that takes center stage. Grefe seems to have taken a similar approach in having the plot and characters there to drive the action, which is his main focus and clearly what he had enormous fun writing.

And there’s the rub: If you’re looking for non-stop action (the massacre really is nonstop from page one all the way to the end) and don’t mind the plot and characters being more like decoration, figuratively and literally, then you will have a lot of fun reading this book. But if you require an in-depth plot, you will probably be disappointed. That being said, if you’re looking for non-stop action, be careful what you wish for. You’re going to need a lot of energy to keep up with Grefe.

The Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe earns 3.5 robo-vixens out of 5.

Book Review: The Church of TV as God

The Church of TV as GodThe Church of TV as God by Daniel Vlasaty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hate television. Well, I should actually say that I hate most television. There is very little that I like to watch, and I find the whole thing rather mind-numbing.

So, when I saw The Church of TV as God by Daniel Vlasaty was a part of this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series, it caught my attention. This series is one I look forward to every year as it brings us new voices in fiction to delight and challenge us.

Right away, the title grabs you, or at least it grabs me given how much I dislike television and really do feel like many people have turned their homes into TV shrines…okay, okay, I’ll stop with my own social commentary. The cover is brilliant, and it vaguely reminds me of the cover of Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Jeremy is a security guard at the Appliance Cemetery, a place where people go to bury their appliances that no longer work (yeah, Jeremy doesn’t really get it, either; I think someone just found a niche and filled it). Jeremy is befriended by a talking dog named Benjamin (yes, he’s just as confused by that as you are). Jeremy’s head is also turning into a TV. It’s a family thing, as it happened to his father before him. It’s because of this that he has drawn the attention of the man in white, the leader of a cult called the Church of TV as God. They think Jeremy is the chosen one whose destiny is to father their savior, the living embodiment of their deity, the Great TV in the Sky. Got it?

Okay, that’s a lot to take in, but it all ties together, I swear.

The characters are well-drawn. Jeremy is sort of a slacker. He doesn’t have any real goals in life other than existing, so when he is thrust into this situation, he has to break out of his character mold and take action. Benjamin is hysterical. While somewhat foul-mouthed, you can easily picture dogs saying the things he says. The cult followers are about as cultish as you can get, with a fanatical leader who believes his own doctrine. The most dangerous kind of cult leader. Overall, the characters work and play off of each other quite well.

The plot can be a little slow to get started. It takes a little while for things to really start happening. The action ramps up, but it does so in spurts. When it ramps up, it stays that way, but the pace doesn’t change slowly. It’s like slamming your foot on the gas pedal while you’re at a full stop. It feels a little jerky at time, but oddly not inappropriately so. The ending is…unexpected. Things don’t completely wrap up in a nice, neat little package. At the same time, it’s not necessarily the ending you want but it’s definitely the “ending” the book and the characters need once you give yourself some time to think about it.

As for the editing, well, I wish I could say it worked well, but there are enough grammatical and punctuation issues to be a problem. Technical errors bother me, as they are great for ripping the reader off the page. There are enough in here to interrupt the flow and be a problem for me, and I have to take the book down a notch for it.

Overall, The Church of TV as God is a good book with a well-drawn characters (and character development), a satisfying if occasionally jerky plot, and social commentary well-seeded into the story, which I have to give some prop for as seeding heavy social commentary into bizarro fiction in an appropriate way is not that easy. At the same time the occasional jerkiness of the plot may throw some readers off, and the technical errors are something you’ll have to be aware of and overlook to get your full enjoyment out of this book.

The Church of TV as God by Daniel Vlasaty earns 4 orange extension cords out of 5.

Book Review: There’s No Happy Ending

There's No Happy EndingThere’s No Happy Ending by Tiffany Scandal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gee, nice title. Spoilers…

As an entry in this year’s New Bizarro Author Series, Tiffany Scandal gives us something very different with the standout There’s No Happy Ending. This series is something I’ve looked forward to every year since its inception because it gives us new authors and new voices in fiction that we haven’t read before, and the results are often unique and in some ways challenging.

This is the case with There’s No Happy Ending. The story revolves around Isobel and Dresden, and couple who plan to get married. However, Dresden comes from money and his mother does not approve of his plans to wed Isobel. In addition, the entire world, buildings and people included, are literally falling apart for reasons unknown.

To start off, the book is bleak. It doesn’t let you down with its title or description. This is not a book I would recommend for the seriously depressed. Or maybe I would, and say “Remember, at least the world isn’t falling apart.” Yet there’s still something that grabs the reader. One thing that makes this book so different from the other entries is the lack of humor. That’s not say that there aren’t a couple of funny moments to be had. But the humor is used sparingly, and it’s a far more serious book than the others in this year’s series.

It’s a love story in its purest form, as Isobel tries to find Dresden and Dresden tries to escape the clutches of his mother to reunite with Isobel. Even as the world is falling apart, the characters never lose sight of their desire to find one another. And, despite how it may sound, this central character trait comes off as endearing rather than annoying, something that isn’t always easy to accomplish. You find yourself rooting for the main characters and wanting them to find each other before the end of the world. And it’s not a cheesy love story by any means. This is probably why this otherwise bleak book is so tolerable: In a world suffering from the worst case of entropy imaginable, the author gives the reader something to hope for, to watch two likable characters do everything they can just to be with one another, even as the world ends around them.

The prose flows beautifully. While not lyrical, it’s clean with few errors and the words roll over your eyes and mind smoothly with no discomfort. It makes it very easy to read and enjoy the book. As I’ve stated in other reviews, technical errors really bug me, but there are very few to break the flow of the prose and keeps the reader trapped in the book.

That’s not to say that everything is hunky dory. There is an unanswered question or two that leave the reader at a bit of a loss. It’s probably supposed to be left up to interpretation, but it still becomes an annoyance. An oddity and a minor blemish on an otherwise great first novel.

If you’re looking for a book that, while part of the bizarro genre, is rather bleak and yet manages to inspire the reader to hope in its own way, this is the book for you. Simply keep in mind the usual bizarro humor is kept at a minimum and remember that, of course, there’ no happy ending.

There’s No Happy Ending by Tiffany Scandal earned 4 entropic zombies out of 5.