Saturday, March 7, 2015

Book Review: Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Paperback, 344 pages

Published February 2015 by Lazy Fascist Press

Let me get this out of the way. I am bias as hell about this book. When I first moved to Portland I lived a few blocks away from Jeremy. Even when I moved to a different neighborhood it was along the same Powell ave. and I often saw Jeremy out for run. So I root for the guy. Look we are close to the same age and got into horror and punk rock in similar ways in different small towns in different states. I consider watching Prince of Darkness on the big screen at the Lovecraft fest with him to be a bonding experience.

All that said I think he is an amazing writing with far too few releases to his name. That makes each one from his two short story collections (We Live Inside you & Angel dust Apocalypse) and his amazing Bram Stoker nominated Siren Promised (A novel he co-wrote with the artist Alan Clark) So special. In all the time I have known JRJ he had hinted at the novel in progress Skullcrack city. The plot he explained was so weird and spit out in motor mouth fashion that I asked about every time I saw him from bizarrocon to running into him at super cuts where the hell is it?

It was worth the wait. I am bias sure but I take my role as critic seriously. I have given a one star review to a friend before. So believe me when I say this is a hybrid dark bizarro science fiction horror freak out masterpiece. I do not say this lightly, and I mean it. JRJ has really crafted something special here. It is weird, really weird but not in the Dildo joke way a lot of bizarro stuff tends to do. Jeremy is a great writer with precise prose that doesn’t make for a quick read because you don’t want to miss anything.

This book is like nothing else you have ever read but everyone loves a comparison right? JRJ wears his influences on his sleeve but not to crutch level. If you forced me to I would say it felt like a way weirder take on Carpenter’s They Live if William Burroughs and Clive Barker worked on the script and Cronenberg directed.

The story of SP Doyle a weirdo turn corporate who accidently develops a career working at a bank. He is overseeing loans and getting a behind the scenes look at the corporate world. The corruption is one thing, but Doyle is corrupted himself. He has a habit that involves an expeimental drug called Hex. It makes him feel powerful and at the same time opens another reality. Once there that is when the DNA-doped mutants, drug-addled freak show celebs, experimental surgeons, depraved doomsday cults, and drug freak-outs get going.

Chapter 20 is the best chapter in the novel, and for whatever reason everything from that point was like a spinal tap amp turned to 11. Skullcrack City started to make my ears bleed and I loved it. This book is political but not like leaflet. It is funny, but doesn’t descend into parody of itself. It is well written and well told. I would be super surprised if it was not top of my list of reads for the year when 2015 is over.

Now Jeremy…Skullcrack City is all that and a bag of chocolate chips. I am here-by telling all fans of weird, horror and Science Fiction to read. Don’t make us wait this long for the next one.

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