Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Book Review: Last days by Brian Evenson. Wow! Read this book!
Last Days by Brian Everson
Underland press (Portland press!)
I saw Brian Everson read from this novel at Powells city of books here in Portland. I was impressed not only with his readings but also the basket of books he had collected to buy that was sitting by the podium. I swear this guy had four Thomas Ligotti books. I admit I came to the reading to see local Jemiah Jefferson read from her web-novel (Wovel) and had not heard of Everson before. Boy have I been missing out.
Last Days is a short brutal novel that brings noir to horror much the same way Phil Dick was known for doing with Sci-fi. Last days is made up of two novellas, the first of which is called “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” and was published in a very limited edition by Earthling publications. The newest edition comes with an introduction by Peter Straub (Ghost story, Koko and co-author of The Talisman) which in itself is a really good sign. This time the one hundred page novella has a sequel that is about the same length and continues the story.
The story is that of a former undercover cop who in his last mission had his hand cut off by “man with a cleaver.” He lives on, but he is lonely and depressed. All that changes when he gets a phone call asking him to go undercover again. The job investigate the murder of cult leader, the cult is made of Christian who take Matthew so literally that they cut off their hands tto get closer to god.
Once inside the cult we learn that they have taken to multiple amputations and have set a hierarchy based on who has the most body parts sacraficed. The world in the brotherhood of mutilation is both disgusting and darkly comedic. By the second half when we meet their rival break away group it gets even more amusing. That is not to say that the book is slapstick, it's a brutal horror bizarro detective story.
Evenson's dialogue in this book is perfect choppy noir with lots of short snappy comical exchanges. The suspense is handled with a minimalist flair and the moments of gruesome reveal are plentiful. This is strange and wonderful piece of horror literature that should not be missed.
It's also interesting to note that Evenson was once heavily involved in religion as a Mormon. He even taught literature at the Mormon university Brigham Young University. He was fired after he refused to give up writing in the aftermath of his first short story collection. This experience I'm sure had an effect on this novel.
Read Last Days, you'll thank me.