Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: We Live Inside You by Jeremy R. Johnson

We Live Inside You By Jeremy Robert Johnson
188 pages
Swallowdown press

Thanks to an insanely cool book cover and equally intriguing title
Jeremy Robert Johnson's book "Angeldust Apocalypse" became a cult hit.
The blurb from Fight Club scribe Chuck Palahniuk calling him a dazzling writer didn't hurt either. Perhaps the best marketing accident came when very few people who bought it realized that it was short story collection and not a novel. Ok, that might not have been an accident because the reality is collections never sell close to the units that novels do.

That's OK because once people ripped open the package from amazon they were treated with one of the most insane over the top dark bizarro collections all time. If you have not yet read that collection I'll give you hint you'll want both these books up on your shelf keeping each other company.

Johnson is the Bram Stoker award nominated co-author (With artist Alan
Clark) of the amazingly dark illustrated anti-drug novel Siren Promised. He is also know for having written a short story about a dude that makes a suit of cockroaches to survive a nuclear war which was spun off into a separate novella called Extinction Journals. After a hypernation period where Johnson hung out with his human spawn and complied a list of germs and parasites Many of us wondered if JRJ would write again.

He came out of hiding first to publish a collection and novel by bizarro horror berserker Cody Goodfellow and rumors of a new collection by Johnson himself were rumored. I saw a few of the stories here and there in magazines like Dark Discoveries and Cemetery Dance but it was not until I had We live Inside you in my hands that I was totally sure.

I am so glad he did. Angeldust was a strong collection but the growth in the writing between the first and his second collection is like a out of control virus. The best horror writers chase their fears and in this collection Johnson rolls around in his worst fears. It is no surprise that Johnson has a list parasites and viruses on his
wall. If I have sold you and are worried about spoilers, click off this page go to Amazon and buy it.

The collection is separated into to two sections, the second being short pieces Johnson wrote with co-authors and a extended version of a story that appeared earlier. It's funny two of my favorite pieces are one page flash fiction type stories that pack amazing punch into bare number of words used. My favorite being “Cortical Reorganization,” which was a super powerful one and half pager about a spare changer. Other favorites include a dark Sci-fi piece called “The Oarsmen,” a Portland crime piece called “Persistence hunting,” but my favorite is a horrific tale I first read in Cemetery Dance magazine called “ A flood of Harriers.”

Flood of harriers, created a stir when it was first published, despite being semi-autobiographical and based on real events Johnson was accused of being borderline racist. Frankly I laugh at that, the story which happens to include a a few native American thugs is far from racist, and leads me to believe the people who were upset didn't read the entire fantastic story. It is my favorite in the collection because it starts off as a realistic and effective suspense tale before shifting seamlessly into a surreal body horror Karmic revenge direction. Well done.

We Live Inside you is dark bizarro horror literature at it's sharpest point, sharpened enough enter through the temple and worm deep into your brain. JRJ comes from the same scene but doesn't rely on dildo jokes or B-movie tropes like a lot of bizarro writers do. The insane ideas are still there, but it's like crème filling in a fancy donut. At the same time it's hard for me to advise anyone to take a bite of a book written by a guy who keeps a list of parasites above his desk, but this book is a must for lovers of all literiture that is weird and dark.

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