Tag Archives: bizarro

Book Review: Time Pimp

Time PimpTime Pimp by Garrett Cook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when you mix pimps, time travel, pandas, and leather nuns inside the brain of a deranged bizarro author? You get Time Pimp by Garrett Cook.

Now, I have to admit something: The only book by Garrett Cook I’ve read until now was Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, which I was not the biggest fan of. It was okay, but even accounting for its noir feel, it still felt very bleak and seemed to be missing a lot the fun that such a situation should have had. Or at least that was my take. So when I started reading “Time Pimp,” it wasn’t without some apprehension.

I’m happy to say that Time Pimp came off completely differently and captures the joy that Jimmy Plush seemed to miss. Time Pimp is a fun, wild ride through time and space, from biblical times to the end of time itself and bizarre worlds with elements that seem random, and yet these random elements fit together perfectly in ways that you can’t even imagine.

The story is bright and colorful. Well, about as bright and colorful as black and white printing can be, but it gives the feeling that everything is bright and colorful. Time Pimp is a pimp (well, duh!). Actually, he’s not just any pimp. He is a pimp whose stable of hos are from every time and planet and can cater to every desire. His client list includes some of the most influential people in history. He is a master of alchemy, can turn basic water into cognac, and drives a giant purple time-traveling Cadillac. But, like the reader, he has no idea how time travel works. It just does.

This is not a difficult thing to overcome for the reader, however. No one (almost) knows how time travel works in this universe, but no one needs to. It’s not important and doesn’t distract from the story at all.

Time Pimp himself is not a caricature, despite what the description sounds like. There are four closely related stories that blend into one. Over the course of these stories, we learn that Time Pimp is actually very flawed and has a history that has led him to the point where the book starts. Time Pimp evolves, learns, and changes in excellent ways, along with other characters. We learn about his archenemy, Death Pimp, and what their relationship is. And we learn about the true nature of the psychic octopi that swim inside the absinthe in his platform shows. If I say much more, I’m afraid that I’ll give too much away.

Yes, all of this fits together, and fits together beautifully in a way that surprisingly doesn’t stretch the imagination. In fact, the evolution of Time Pimp and the other characters goes from being fun and funny to almost touching and thought-provoking, and not in a jarring way, either. In other words, Time Pimp doesn’t jerk you around with a bunch of random and weird stuff. It evolves and actually has a grand and satisfying climax. It’s more than a simple slice in the life of Time Pimp.

If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the editing, which is a real shame. Cook has some really great writing and a great way of phrasing things, not to mention keeping the characters in character so that their dialogue stays consistent. But there are errors throughout the book that bug me. Like in other reviews I’ve written, editing errors are a pet peeve of mine, and tear the reader out of an otherwise sublime story. And there’s enough in this book that I have to detract from the overall score.

If you’re looking a fun read that is still definitely bizarre with good, strangely believable characters that evolve with a story that has a satisfying payoff, then Time Pimp will work nicely for you. Unless you’re a little bitch. You’re not a little bitch, are you?

Time Pimp by Garrett Cook earns 4 fine scotches out of 5.

Book Review: The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island

The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake IslandThe Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island by Cameron Pierce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see some people looking at the cover for The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island by Cameron Pierce and saying, “Aw! That’s so cute. What could be more innocent than a pickle and a pancake falling in love?” To those people I say, “You haven’t read Cameron Pierce before, have you?”

This story is what I would imagine someone would come up with if they had an acid flashback while staring into their refrigerator. It involves a pickle named Gaston Glew from the Pickled Planet, a planet who people and very environment exist in an eternal briny sadness. Gaston Glew is not satisfied being stuck in sadness and believes that happiness, or at least not-sadness, must exist somewhere in the universe. So he leaves his planet and crashes on Pancake Island, a world where everyone is eternally happy and is the last happy place in the universe. While Gaston Glew falls in love with Fanny Fod, a beautiful pancake who is responsible for the world’s happiness, things end up going from bad to worse for our heroes.

As one would expect from Cameron Pierce, there’s sex and violence without apology in this book, although it is toned down a little from some of his other works I’ve read. The prose is excellent and flows like rich maple syrup. The character are likeable if tragic in a way, and even though Gaston Glew can occasionally come off as a bit of a phallus (word changed to get through censorship scanners; you know what I mean), he’s still identifiably flawed.

Some might focus on the book’s commentary on social norms as they relate to depression and happiness, and, yes, I can see this. It could easily be argued the Pierce is putting an almost childish veneer on a story about being trapped in sadness and depression, but how those in persistent states of happiness can act like complete idiots, and a search for a happy medium. After all, the only characters who actually achieve anything in this story are those who suffer from at least some sadness, while the characters who are eternally happy do nothing but dance and act like idiots. It’s simple, but in its own way it works.

Occasionally, logic needs to get thrown out the window for the sake of the story, such has how Gaston Glew’s rocket boosters actually work. However, if you’ve read Pierce before, you’ll expect him to play with physical rules a little bit. I mean, this is a book about living pickles and pancakes, so how realistic can it actually get? Still, it does stretch the limits in suspending disbelief a few times, even for a story that runs on cartoon physics.

Overall, it’s a good story with bizarro elements that’s comparatively tame but definitely not innocent. With serious flawed but identifiable characters and easy, smooth prose, I feel comfortable giving this one a recommendation.

The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island by Cameron Pierce earns 4 pints of maple syrup out of 5.

Book Review: Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy

Sorry I Ruined Your OrgySorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Flash fiction is a weird animal in literature. It can be so short that it doesn’t allow meaning to enter into anything unless the author knows what they’re doing. Still, in the right hands flash fiction can be a brilliant vehicle to get the point across quickly.

Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands is a collection of flash fiction and prose poetry that engages in a lot of experimentation and pushes the boundaries with how far an author can play with the rules before the narrative, even a very brief narrative, falls apart.

To start, you’ll notice something right away: Most of these stories are very brief, in some cases being only a short paragraph long. Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy is kind of like Robot Chicken: The Novel (which doesn’t exist; it’s just a personal dream of mine). You get quick cuts of things that seem to be completely random with an occasional longer story, although nothing that’s really that long. From the Pope getting sued to a war that breaks out over greeting cards, this covers everything that has nothing to do with each other and somehow makes them relate. Some stories even have some touching commentary on real-world perspectives, like how a child can see their parent as invincible.

You might notice how above I said that it pushes the boundaries before a narrative falls apart. In this book, Sands walks that line very carefully, and the way he describes everything as though it’s the most normal stuff in the world adds to that effect. I found myself almost hearing these stories read to me in a deadpan fashion. While a few of the stories were a little off, none of them actually crosses that lines into total collapse. Some of these stories straight-up shine. It was a really fascinating experience to read this book. There are a lot more gems than stinkers here.

As far as bizarro fiction goes, it definitely qualifies. Believe me, nothing about any of these stories qualify as normal. In fact, that might be a bit of a sticking point for some. While collections of short pieces could be a good introduction for someone into the bizarro genre, I can’t recommend this for newbies. Some of this is so bizarre that it would likely leave the uninitiated confused, if not send them straight to the looney bin babbling about Tao Lin with golden eyebrows.

A volume worth your time, this book is recommended but only for those that already have a little bizarro under their belt or might already be unhinged enough the get Sands’ special brand of madness, and if you do then please seek help. The small size of the stories make it easy to read and take a break whenever you need to, but the stories may still be too surreal for the uninitiated. And even for the initiated, it’s not perfect and not every story will be for everyone. While good, this book is completely non-traditional and experimental, so be warned. Personally, I happen to like more experimental fiction, and even when it doesn’t always work, I still respect the author for trying something new.

Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy by Bradley Sands earns 4 ape smoothies out of 5.

Book Review: Kitten

KittenKitten by G. Arthur Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who needs a fourth wall?

Not G. Arthur Brown, and especially not in Kitten, part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Author series, meaning that this is his first published book. As a freshman effort, how does it stack up?

In Kitten, you really get two stories. The first story follows Amaand (not a mispelling), a mother who is concerned about a dead girl with perfect teeth (or undead, as she is a result of her father-in-law’s experiments) visiting her son, an ex-husband who very publicly tells everyone about how he feels she wronged him, and a strange man called the Collector who has an unhealthy interest in the dead girl, her son, and her son’s kitten that is not a kitten but rather a weird deformed squirrel thing that vomits postal stamps from around the world. That’s just one story.

The other story involves the kitten who is not a kitten, although now it’s a kitten, wandering a strange land after being forcibly removed from the previous story into his own story and trying to find a way back to the original story. Still following me? There are lots of pop culture references in this one, and Brown seems to like playing with the reader this way throughout much of the book.

That bring me to the odd feeling that this book gives the reader. Aside from being the most surreal of this year’s class of NBAS books, it’s also an experimental novel on a fundamental level. Brown’s characters acknowledge the reader more than once without directly addressing them, and acknowledge the writer of this story. The characters even realize that they’re characters in a story. It creates this weird meta feel which makes the book genuinely unpredictable. At times, the story even comes off like it could have been one of Brown’s fever dreams. Just look at the cover!

The editing is actually pretty good, something that’s been an issue in the bizarro genre on more than one occasion. Does this make it a good novel? Not in and of itself, but if you’ve read my previous reviews, you’ll know that poor editing is a pet peeve of mine, and that’s something that I can’t fault this book for.

If you’re looking for something that’s not just weird but downright surreal, but at the same time is relatively tame compared to most bizarro books when it comes to sex and violence, you’ll have a good time with Kitten. However, if this is not something you’re looking for, you will probably not get much out of it. The book definitely has a certain charm and a sense of fun, but it takes a particular mindset to get into it. Aspects of the story do remain incomplete, but for the purposes of this book and the story the author wanted to tell, it remains relatively self-contained. This is his world after all, something which we get reminded of. While not perfect, Kitten is worth the short time it takes to read, even if it could trigger fever dreams of your own.

Kitten by G. Arthur Brown earns 4 international postage stamps out of 5.

Book Review: Son of a Bitch

Son of a BitchSon of a Bitch by Wrath James White and Andre Duza

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aw, who’s a cute wittle puppy? Who’s a coot wittew puppy? Who’s a…AH! AH! AH!

Son of a Bitch is a collaborative work by Andre Duza and Wrath James White and recently published by Deadite Press, the horror imprint of Eraserhead Press. The story is simple: A creature who is part demon and part dog is born and wreaks havoc, particularly after it is possessed by the soul of a hitman. The book is bloody and gory, nearly to excess, but it is a horror novel, so as long as don’t mind huge amounts of blood, guts, and violence in the book’s short run, you’ll know what you’re getting.

The characters are well-developed, or at least as well developed as you can expect with such a short novel, so they’re developed about as much as they need to be. We learn what we need to know during the course of the book, including the basic personalities, the motivations, etc. The characters are simple in this regard, but not unbelievable, especially given the short time we’re given to know them, kind of like meeting someone at a party and you get to know them but not in any deep sense. The story is sound, even if it follows a very typical structure, with plot points placed at almost exactly the right spots. It works, even if it would have been nice to have a little more innovation.

The overall feel of the book is hard to describe, which is part of the problem. While officially a horror novel, something I don’t dispute, it has more of an “Evil Dead” feel where it’s tempered by a dark humor. Therein lies the central problem with this novel. It takes a little too much of an “Evil Dead” approach, and not always successfully. This requires some explanation.

When mixing humor into any genre other than a comic novel, but especially in a horror novel, the jokes can get taken in one of three ways. The first is that the audience gets the joke and laughs with you at the right time. This happens a few times in this novel, so kudos to the authors there.

The second is when the joke goes over the audience’s head. They simply don’t get it and only a few audience member will get the joke. Not an ideal situation, but not exactly the end of the world. The story simply moves on without acknowledgment of the attempted humor.

The third way a joke can be taken is one that should be avoided at all costs. This is when the audience gets the joke, or the attempt at a joke, but doesn’t find it funny. In stand-up comedy, this would be the typical “groaner” or even a “boo.” This only works if completely intentional and followed by a joke that acknowledges how bad the last one was.

Unfortunately, in literature, you don’t usually get such a followup as it’s generally ineffective. And sadly, there’s a few times this happens in Son of a Bitch. In a few places, the reader realizes that the situation is absurd or there’s an attempt at a joke, but it falls flat, mostly with the juxtaposition of the serious and violent situation the characters find themselves in. While I can respect the heavy risk the authors took with this approach, I also can’t ignore when they missed the mark.

The reader should also be warned that the book has a heavily “urban” feel to it (you probably know what I mean, but if you don’t, I’m referring to racial stereotypes). If you’re uncomfortable with racial epithets or references, this book is probably not going to sit well with you, even if you’ve got a generalized sense of humor, and I point this out because of certain sensitivities that I’ve witnessed in society. I, for one, didn’t mind and felt that it added character to the novel while at the same time acknowledging those stereotypes and ridiculing them in the process. The dialogue itself is a bit striking, but you get used to it. Like “Pulp Fiction,” it’s mostly reminding us that this book is not about nice people. Pretty much every character is not someone you would want to have anything to do with in real life, from Demetrius, the dog breeder who breeds dogs mostly for fighting, or the hitman Warlock. Whether this book actually makes you like the bad guys is questionable as they really aren’t likable and Demetrius is only barely redeemable. But in this context, they have a strange way of working. Up to a point.

Son of a Bitch is not going to be for everyone, but what it does, it generally does well. At the same time, it misses the mark a few times with the humor enough to border on an identity crisis, whether it should be funny or a horror novel, or if the jokes are simply in poor taste. The characters are developed mostly for the purposes of the story, but anything outside the context of the story tends to be lost and remain mostly unacknowledged.

Son of a Bitch by Andre Duza and Wrath James White earns 3 cuddly attack puppies out of 5.