Book Review: Naraka by Alessandro Manzetti

Naraka is not a novel, it’s an experience – a graphic, chaotic, mind-blowing experience.

It is not an experience intended for those faint of heart.  It is at times gory to an extreme, it is constantly profane, and sex is used more often as a weapon or a form of abuse or torture than for pleasure.  It focuses on cannibalism and the downfall of civilization.

But what else would you expect from a story about a woman who starts out life as a prostitute turned professional killer who is caught and sent to a prison on the moon where prisoners are used as meat, scientific subjects in genetic experiments or breeding stock to make more of the former and the latter.  It presents the reader with social commentary on what becomes of a society that has been deregulated to the point where crime is rampant, people act out of desperation for the sake of survival, and the rich and immoral do whatever they please because they can.

Kiki, the protagonist, is doomed from her unpleasant start.  She tries to swim through life but finds herself sunk when her life takes a bad turn and there is no social net to save her and her son.  She does what she feels she has to secure their survival, digging herself into a dark, hellish hole where things go from bad to worse. Every time she tries to change things for the better, either the outcome ends up unexpectedly bad, or she falls victim to her own personal failings.

Aside from the multi-faceted characterization rife with personality and flaws, what struck me most about this book was how well it embraced its own chaos.  It is not presented in standard chronological order, the narrative method changes from chapter to chapter, and some scenes seem almost hallucinogenic.  The imagery is exceptional – it reminded me of someone taking one of the stark, bold graphic stories you’d expect to see in a Heavy Metal magazine and writing it out, capturing all of that disturbing artwork in words (and both the cover artwork and interior illustrations support this.).

If you love dark, graphic dystopian horror, will not be dissuaded by the gruesome and scenes of cannibalism, and seek out the chaotic, artistic and extreme, this book is for you. It made for unusual vacation reading, but I found it so remarkable that I have to rate it a five out of five.

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Book Review: GRUESOME, A Gathering of Nightmares

GRUESOME: A Gathering of Nightmares
by Terry M. West

One thing I like about anthologies and short story collections is that no two are ever alike. You can count on diversity, even in a collection from a single author.  That was also one thing I appreciated about this book.  While some themes were shared by a few of the stories, such as cannibalism and the supernatural, they were still all very different and had something of their own to offer the reader.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this collection was the human element.  The characters in the stories didn’t feel like archetypal or tropish cardboard cutouts – they had depth, strengths and flaws, and real feeling.  Even the shorter stories…or I’m inclined to say especially the shorter stories…drew me in with strong character descriptions that gave true purpose to the tale.

While I was entertained by every story, the longer pieces did not have as much appeal for me.  Honger, for example had a strong start, but I felt the modern day parts of the story had a bit too much exposition and drew me away from the main plot to some extent.  I liked the concept of the tale and the descriptions were well written, but I found myself wanting to get back to the central focus of the story from time to time.

Comparatively, the author’s shorter stories had delightful punch and held my attention from start to finish.  My favourites were the opening story “Don’t the Monsters All Get Scarier at Closing Time,” “Morsel” and “The Rose Man.”

This collection was certainly worth my time and I would happily rate it a solid 4 out of 5.