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The New Dollar by Rick Berry
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BOOK REVIEWS: June 1999
By Paula Guran

WETBONES
John Shirley
Leisure/ $5.50/ 332p.
ISBN: 0843945257

book cover Originally published in hardcover by Mark V. Ziesing in late 1991, Wetbones -- now in mass market paperback from Leisure -- is an entertaining yet metaphysically complex novel of darkness and redemption that few writers of any stripe can equal. A fast-paced thriller, it's also a disturbingly horrific story concerning the power of various addictions conveyed through a metaphor of supernatural evil. Threading a cast of convincing characters through several tightly woven plotlines, Shirley reveals the depravities of addiction against a background of both Hollywood excess and mean street reality. Screenwriter Tom Prentice, is haunted by the death of his ex-wife whose body is found strangely desiccated and utterly drained of all traces of life. Prentice, helping friend Jeff Teitelbaum find his missing teen brother Mitch, begins to find disturbing answers about himself as well as clues to an overwhelming evil. The Reverend Garner's daughter, Constance, is missing. Taken by a twisted serial killer, Ephram Pixie, Constance is mentally "rewired" by this human monster and forced into sexual and murderous acts that threaten to corrupt her very soul. A recovering addict, Garner's initial failure to save his daughter makes him lose his belief in himself and doubt God. Involved in it all are the Akishra, invisible psychic parasites -- "astral worms" -- that feed on human addiction and weakness. Shirley mixes his noted heat up the amps and lay down the riffs writing style with, visceral, kick-out-the jams imagery ("The sickly, silver-grey protoplasm of wormstuff had grown out of her mouth and eyes and out from psychic pressure points in her throat and temples -- the worm had taken her over and grown to surround her, its great lamprey mouth, ringed and razored, turning toward him when she looked his way...its body, thick as a primed firehouse, sliding through her body like a maggot through rot. Sliding through her. Squirming. A part of her and independent from her, as she calmly drove the car...") for a set you'll never forget. Wetbones is not to be missed.

GALILEE
Clive Barker
HarperCollins/ $7.50/ 637p.
ISBN: 0-0610-9200-2

book cover About the only way Clive Barker can be unconventional is to be, well, conventional. So, he wrote a family saga, of all things, and subtitled it as "a romance." As the narrator of Galilee (now available in paperback) writes early on. "...in my heart I realize I want most to romance you; to share with you a vision of the world that puts order where there has been discordance and chaos. Nothing happens carelessly..." That's exactly what Barker does with Galilee -- he seduces the reader into his vision and, in the end, you realize nothing has happened carelessly.

Ensconced in L'Enfant, a magnificent Southern mansion designed by one of his goddess-stepmother's lovers -- Thomas Jefferson -- the reclusive Maddox Barbarossa writes the history of his family and its entanglement with another family, the Gearys. The Barbarossas are primal immortal gods; the powerful and wealthy Gearys are resolutely human. The story ranges across space and time from the ancient Middle East to modern-day New York City and a myriad of places and eras between. Although focusing on Rachel, the young Cinderella-wife of a handsome but shallow Geary, and the angst-ridden, supremely sensual Barbarossa son Galilee, Maddox also tells a considerable amount about his now-dead priapic father and his mysterious muliebral stepmother as he reveals the dark secrets of the families.

Is Galilee an allegorical battle between the divine and the human, nature and the supernatural? A masterful work of literature about the human need to understand the mysteries within ourselves and those of the world outside us? A grand metaphysical vision? A dark satire of over-ripe Southern Gothic and bosom-heaving romance? A story of death and transfiguration replete with Barker's unique eroticism, violent and entrancing images, earthy scatology, and divine prose? Yes, probably all of the above. Who cares? As Barker confesses through his narrator, "Meaning is always a latecomer. Beauty and music seduce us first; later ashamed of our own sensuality, we insist on meaning." Seek whatever meanings you may wish, but Barker's art is unquestionable.

DREAD IN THE BEAST
Charlee Jacob
Necro Publications/ $12.95/ 213p.
ISBN:1889186112

book cover Charlee Jacob lives up to her reputation for "hardcore" extreme horror in this, her first collection of short stories. What distinguishes Jacob from most of the rest of the splat-gore-puke-gross-out-pack is her lyrical, often poetic prose and her Grand Guignol sense of gruesome spectacle. Necrophilia? Not far enough for this author, combine it with a burnt corpse and cannibalism and you are in her territory. Mutilation, "[p]eople bent to the knotted arabesque of deviant pleasures," incest, rape, torture, suicide, brutality -- Jacob's grotesqueries twitch in nightmarish scenarios of unrelieved darkness. She seeks no balance, no comparison to reality. This is horror where the subconscious holds sway, not the storyteller. Dread in the Beast is not for the weak of heart or stomach, but for those who want to take more than one step over the line this is the place to begin.


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