Thursday, June 26, 2014
Book Review: Sirens
2 Stars - Recommended Lightly to fans of the bizarro-horror genre, and to those who don't mind the occasional strange sentence structure
Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
Released: April 2014
I first discovered Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing through a happy accident on twitter about a month before reviewing this book. They've got a certain bizarro-horror charm to them and I had a lot of fun browsing their catalog and getting to know their publisher.
Sirens jumped out at me in a way the other books did not. Something about the pulpy cover, the drippy 1970's sex and rock-n-roll description, called to my inner noir-child. And I decided this book was a must-have.
Upon reading the first few pages, I immediately became aware of two things: One - I definitely made the right decision by starting with this novel because I could totally see myself getting into this rompy sci-fi subtle-horror literary mishmosh. And Two - I was going to have to fight the urge to cringe at the somewhat clunky and awkward writing style of its author Kurt Reichenbaugh. So much of what you'll find within its pages screams of 'first time novelist'. Though I am sure, as he matures as a writer, and works with stronger editors (no offense Max!) much of the sentence-structurey strange-nuancey stuff will work themselves out.
So here we are, in Florida in the late 1970's, hanging around with a pack of horny high school boys kicking around town, looking for something to do. A mismatched motley group, for sure. And when they are joined by the slightly older Benny, who spreads the promise of a bad-ass party happening out in the middle of nowhere, the boys reluctantly agree to accompany him there.
They enter into a familiar horror-typical situation when they turn down the deserted dirt road towards the dilapidated old house, meet up with red headed Suzie - a siren if ever there was one, and head down towards the lake for some good, clean fun. The sense of foreboding is a strangling one and we the reader find ourselves itching to warn them to get back into the car the moment they arrive. But of course, we can't do that. The story's already written. We are helpless, merely puppets, with eyes glued to the page, prepared for the worst, unsure at the moment of the exact type of hell Kurt is about to create for them. And oh what a hell it will be.
Suzie's other-worldly sex appeal is hypnotic and their lakeside conversation has a calming effect on the group. Almost calming enough to lull the boys into a false sense of awe, unable to believe their luck, to be hanging with such a gorgeous girl. Almost calming enough to cause them to wearily regard the unnatural glow at the bottom of the water and the lumbering twin henchmen and their strange scorpion-tailed dog with curiosity instead of fear. Almost calming enough to convince them into ignoring that feeling of concern and uncertainty that creeps into their very pores and threatens to send them scurrying.
And scurry they will, the moment they witness Suzie and that dog tear their ole bud Benny to shreds, the moment their entire world changes forever.
In the days that follow, as they gather their wits about them and set off on a mission to make sense of the events that took place at the lake, Kevin, Brad, Nick turn to their schoolmate Otto, an unlikely resource who thrills at the chance to unravel a mystery. The foursome end up investigating strip clubs and skanky bars, while fending off Suzie's redneck henchmen; their dead friend Benny, who's apparently up and shuffling around again to do Suzie's bidding; and a duo of vapid, brainwashed cheerleaders who try to distract the group by practicing their own otherworldly siren skills.
Part every-80's-horror-movie-ever-featuring-teenage-leads-in-the-history-of-ever, part campy Killer Klowns From Outer Space (only replace the klowns with sexy ass sirens and replace the circus tent in the middle of the woods with a space ship sitting on top of a strip club), Sirens pokes fun at the horror genre while adding in elements that haven't existed anywhere else. I got the sense, as I finished it, that Kurt was attempting to woo the serious reader while engaging those who are just looking for a fun read. And while I don't think he completely nailed it, I certainly believe he gave it one hell of a try. So while I might not have been blown away with the book, something tells me this would make one pretty amazing film. It's definitely got that "better to see it" quality to it.... Someone should get on that. ASAP.