Review: Outlawed by Anna North

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop


The Crucible meets True Grit in this riveting adventure story of a fugitive girl, a mysterious gang of robbers, and their dangerous mission to transform the Wild West.

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada’s life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she’s willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear. 


This is one of the first books of the year that I bought and read as something different than my normal books. I do not know much about a contemporary, feminist western, but my biggest reason for getting this book is the cover. The bright pink, blue and yellow really drew my eye, and I did one of those “why not” shrugs and gave it a whirl. I did judge this book by the cover, and I was rewarded for my shallowness. 

The story centers around the Hole in the Wall Gang, a group of thieves who live in the mountains and are dangerous as can be. Led by The Kid, a preacher turned outlaw leader, the gang is small but each one has a different specialty, and they all have something deeper in common. The beginning of the novel starts with Ava, seventeen years old, married, and trying to conceive a child. To be barren in 1894 makes you at best someone to divorce and throw away but at worst a witch who deserves to be hanged. The story of Ava mixes quickly with the Hole in the Wall Gang, and eventually it turns into a novel about group dynamics and survival.

I loved the way that this book is written. All of the chapters have definitive starts and stops. Point A to Point B, then reset. Every chapter contains so much time, plot and character development that every one of them can be an entire book instead of a chapter. Anna North does not summarize the plot as much as only tells the parts that are needed to be told to make the story clear, fast paced, and engaging.  The first three chapters of this book particularly could be taught as a way to write a large amount of time in a short amount of space. Another writing thing that I noticed and loved is how many times Ada described how she is feeling by remembering how her sisters and her interacted when she was still at home. The way that North uses this device, as if Ada’s family is really one of the only experiences that she can draw on so she uses them as much as she can to understand what was happening, is done expertly and with sharp precision. The writing in this book and the way that the plot is laid out and executed is worth reading on it’s own.

The actual story though. I have read a few westerns in my life, some Louis L’Amour when I was a kid and Elmore Leonard when I was older, and this does fit into the traditional outlaw western. Plotting crimes, running from the law, and having a shootout are all things that make this like a traditional western, but all of the characters make for more of a modern novel. The mixture of both makes this plot-driven like a traditional western but also character heavy like contemporary fiction. Many of the characters do not get the spotlight like the Kid and Ava, but all of them are born out of tragic circumstances, and it is known that the Hole in the Wall Gang is really the only family that each one of them has. For as entertaining as it is for a western, it is as heartbreaking as a character study.

I enjoyed this novel, and it is a great start to the reading year. I have already been recommending it to everyone I know who reads. “Outlawed” is a great experience, and I am glad that this cover caught my eye.  

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Book Review: The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag by Sal Cangemi

Buy it here: Amazon, Bookshop


Kyle Jarvis is hiding. He has moved into Le Trou Du Cul, a pleasant suburban apartment complex, to hide from those he has wronged. But the well-hidden complex is not as quiet as he had hoped. And there are the odd neighbors. A reclusive old actress, a man who listens to Christmas music year-round, and the Horn Family – the patriarch of which who has found a way to travel back in time to his 1980’s hay-day – are fighting a demon!

The forest surrounding the complex is ready to engulf the building. Unknown animals are appearing on the grounds – including a family of Sasquatch and a Nessie-like serpent in the small man-made lake. A ghost is haunting one apartment while another shrinking. And a demon, the (almost) evil SLYMIND BRAINTWIST, is the cause of it all.

When the Horn Family’s son, the trouble-making Timmy, disappears, the tenants must ban together and form an alliance with Jarvis as their unlikely leader, in hopes of returning the boy home. It is up to Jarvis and Summer, a neo-hippy, to lead the way. Summer has enlisted the help of the flamboyant clairvoyant, Anton Snow, to fight the battle.

An absurdist allegory about conforming, lost dreams, and regret, overflowing with horror and humor, The Demon, the Dumbwaiter and the Douchebag is a hilarious social satire that will have its reader cringing and laughing in equal measure.


Sometimes you hear about a book that you know you’re going to like on premise alone. “The Demon, The Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag” is one of those stories. I have a soft spot for the subgenre of apartment building stories, where the entire building is represented as different characters. One story that sticks out in my mind is the French film, “Delicatessen,” where the whole building is licking their chops at the prospect of eating their new maintenance man. Any book I find with an apartment building as a setting and a huge list of characters interacting with one another is really in my wheelhouse. 

I heard about Sal Cangemi’s debut novella on the Bizzong! Podcast, and I knew that it was one I needed to read. The story is that an apartment building has a demon living in it’s dumbwaiter, and once it is freed, it wreaks havoc on all of the inhabitants. The apartment building, “Le Trou Du Cul” (throw that in the google translator), is filled with characters that are actually a great deal of fun. Louis Green likes to look for Bigfoot in the 400 yard woods. Marlene Davis is an actress that is well beyond her career and just living. The Horn family who are a picture of dysfunction. Summer, “a neo-hippy new age asshole,” and the main focus character, Kyle Jarvis, who was running for something or someone that he did not want anyone to learn about. There are several other characters, and Cangemi does a good job introducing the large cast but still being able to keep the story moving fast toward the trainwreck. The trainwreck is caused by the demon, Slymind Braintwist, who is trying to graduate from living in Heck to living in Hell. He thinks the way to do this is cause chaos, pit one apartment dweller against the other, until they all kill each other. The actions that he causes are sometimes funny, sometimes gross, sometimes cringeworthy (like when he makes people say racist things), and sometimes not great. There are many jokes and pranks and a few of them seem a little too juvenile and fall flat but most of them work well.

For such a short novella, around 100 pages, Cangemi does a good job. There are some things that a story this short can be lacking, character or plot development particularly, but in his case, he does a good job keeping things clear and satisfying. Most of it is pretty funny, but there might be a few things that some might find offensive, mostly racist and homophobic language. I know the demon is making the characters say these things so I took it with a grain of salt but it may cause some  people to want to skip this one. Either way, Sal Cangemi’s debut is solid, and I will be looking forward to whatever comes next from him.   I’m comfortable giving this one 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones



Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: May 19th 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press
Original Title
The Only Good Indians
1982136456 (ISBN13: 9781982136451)
Edition Language
Preorder here:


The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.


This is my first experience with Stephen Graham Jones. I have…

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Review: Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Hardcover, 336 pages. Published August 25th 2020 by Ecco

Buy it here: Bookshop, Amazon


A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. 

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.


Most of my reading is geared toward horror and small presses, so picking up “Winter Counts” was kind of me reading something that was not in my normal TBR pile. My reward for going passed my boundaries and reading this novel was tremendous. Part thriller, part mystery, part nonfiction narrative on what it is like to live on the Lakota tribe reservation, this is a story that wraps you up and will not let you go until the final page. I had 100 pages left to read the other night, and I had gotten three hours of sleep, wrestled kids, made dinner, cleaned up, and put the kids to bed. I was tired, but I thought I would read as few pages before I passed out from exhaustion. This book was one of the first books that has ever kept me awake to finish. I read the rest and promptly passed out. Now days later, I have had some time to think about the finish of this novel, and I can say that this climax is one of the best ones I have read in a long time.

Virgil Wounded Horse is a local enforcer, a person that is hired by private citizens who want a job done that the police will ignore. He is raising his nephew Nathan, and when Nathan gets into trouble, he is the one who has to figure out how to get them both out of it. There are a ton of great, strongly drawn characters. It is weird when you can pretty much name every single character in a novel days after you read it, but there’s Marie, Lark, Ben and his wife Ann, Tommy (Virgil’s friend), Rick Crow, and Dennis. I’m sure that I’ve missed a few, like Delia Kills in Water, but to be able to go through a list of almost all of the major and minor characters days after reading it also does not happen very often. This novel really leaves a mark.

I could also get into the injustice that the native tribes have endured and still endure, but we already know this. We know that every tribe was killed for their land, their traditions, religions, and culture eradicated, and their history whitewashed. “Winter Counts” is a pretty accurate description of the current state of life on the reservation. There are not long passages that bog down the action, but there is a fine balance between the story and the information. I feel like I left this novel, not only with a good story but with some new knowledge. This is one of those books that should be read for the plot but is worth more than the story.

I enjoyed this much more than I expected, and I cannot recommend this enough. I think that there are some new Native American voices in literature that need to be heard, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden is one of those voices. 


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Review: Extinction Peak by Lucas Mangum

Paperback, 163 pages

Published September 22nd 2020 by Madness Heart Press

Buy it here: Madness Heart Press, Amazon, Bookshop


When the raptors come out of sinkholes across the United States, Deandra Antigone Merriweather’s elder brother Johnny sees the chaos as opportunity.

Overrun by prehistoric beasts of increasing size and savagery, the world has completely gone to hell, but he doesn’t suspect it will stay that way, and he wants to be a rich man by the time things get back to normal.

Though less optimistic about the future, Deandra thinks it might be a good idea to have some money stashed away just in case, if only so she can one day getaway from the abusive Johnny for good.

Together, they embark on a perilous journey across the wasteland to rob the mountain home of a corrupt California senator.

But the home isn’t empty. The senator has stayed behind to live like a king in this post-apocalypse world. With specially trained raptors, his sadistic wife, and sexually stunted son, all manner of misery awaits Deandra within the house’s walls.

All the while, the outside world crumbles under the trampling feet of monsters long thought extinct. 


What would you do if the earth was hollow, and when sinkholes started to appear around the globe, dinosaurs started to come out? I am pretty sure that I would be in the first wave of deaths, but if you were to survive, what would existence be like? This is where brother and sister, Johnny and Deandra find themselves at the beginning of the novella, “Extinction Peak.” They spend most of their life in the basement of their dad’s home (who also was a doomsday prepper), plotting a way to break into a corrupt California senator’s mansion to steal his riches. Of course they were also going to have to dodge raptors, pterodactyls, T-Rex, and even the large herbivores that are knocking down buildings and infrastructure. But this is just the beginning.

There is so much that happens in this short novella, but for something so short, there is a great deal of depth. The brother and sister on a mission is just one part of the plot that never loses it’s way, but follows more the philosophy written on page 57 (of the Kindle edition):

“This was no world for heroes. Perhaps it never had been. It was only a place for anarchists.”

Nobody in this book is really a nice guy; there are just characters that you are rooting for more than others. At the end of the day, the ones that succeed are the ones that can be the most ruthless. And there are times when the character conflict is so great that you almost forget that as soon as the victor in the fighting steps outside, they have to deal with being killed by dinosaurs. This makes for a great, cinematic story that should be read by anyone who loves dinosaur destruction and/or garbage people doing garbage things.


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Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Buy it here: Bookshop, Amazon


Award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones returns with Night of the Mannequins, a contemporary horror story where a teen prank goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose: is there a supernatural cause, a psychopath on the loose, or both?

We thought we’d play a fun prank on her, and now most of us are dead.

One last laugh for the summer as it winds down. One last prank just to scare a friend. Bringing a mannequin into a theater is just some harmless fun, right? Until it wakes up. Until it starts killing.

Luckily, Sawyer has a plan. He’ll be a hero. He’ll save everyone to the best of his ability. He’ll do whatever he needs to so he can save the day. That’s the thing about heroes—sometimes you have to become a monster first.


Stephen Graham Jones is gathering notice and popularity, and this is a great thing. This year he has released one of the top five best novels of any genre this year. “The Only Good Indians” knocked everyone’s socks off, and this has probably been the reason why “Night of the Mannequins” has had a much bigger audience than anticipated. The problem for many of these readers is that “The Only Good Indians” and “Night of the Mannequins” are two completely different books. There were supposed to be some months between publications but with Covid-19 happening, the release of “Night of the Mannequins” was pushed back so that both books were released only a month and a half apart. A few who were coming off the high of “The Only Good Indians” expected more of the same, and this is not the same.

“Night of the Mannequins” is the story of Sawyer, who with a group of friends, sneak a mannequin into a movie theater to pull a prank. Little did Sawyer and the gang know that the mannequin is going to wake up and walk out of the theater. From them on, Sawyer is convinced that the mannequin is going to kill all of his friends and family. There was only one way to stop him. This novella turns into a slasher and actually kind of a sad story about teenagers and mental health. Stephen Graham Jones does not allude to the problems with what Sawyer is seeing and believing very often, but he does give some hints, and these small clues are enough to make the reader feel really bad for Sawyer and for the entire town. Sawyer feels like what he is doing is keeping the mannequin from killing anymore, and in his mind, he is the hero of the story, not the villain. This is not some sort of teenage delusion but a deep dive into a severe mental health crisis. SGJ does such a good job telling this story that you do not feel judgement against Sawyer, but you are hoping that he gets the help that he needs. 

The action in “Night of the Mannequins” definitely makes this a slasher book, and the plot quickly moves along. This is not as in depth and shocking as “The Only Good Indians”, but this is definitely another great story that is worth reading from Stephen Graham Jones. He is one of the top horror writers currently working, and he should be widely read by any horror enthusiast.

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Review: Seventeen Names for Skin by Roland Blackburn

Published August 31st 2020 by Weirdpunk BooksISBN1951658167 (ISBN13: 9781951658168)

Buy it here: Weirdpunk Books, Bookshop, or Amazon


After a cancer diagnosis gives her six months to live, Snow Turner does what any introverted body-piercer might: hire a dark-web assassin and take out a massive life insurance policy to benefit her ailing father. But when a vicious attack leaves her all too alive and with a polymorphic curse, the bodies begin stacking up. As the insatiable hunger and violent changes threaten to consume her, she learns that someone may still be trying to end her life. Can Snow keep her humanity intact, or will she tear everything she loves apart?


Seventeen Names for Skin, the newest book in the flawless publishing record of WeirdPunk Books, takes place in a dreary Portland, one where the main character, Snow, has just learned that she has a tumor in her brain and decides to hire an assassin off of the dark web to kill her. This is a pretty dark opening to the novella, but what happens after the attack, turns this story on it’s head. The tone of the book changes after the attack, and it turns from a story that is very bleak to a story that is almost filled with whimsy and mystery. Snow tries to navigate a new life that is plagued by uncontrollable polymorphic abilities, and she is struck by not only the problems of these actions, but by the way that it is effecting her life, her job, her clothes, her money, and her relationships. Blackburn writes it in a way that makes the reader feel amused more than terrified at the prospects of what is going on. I mean sure, there is still violence, blood, and gore, but the overall feel of the story is more pretty entertaining and almost could be categorized as bizarro.

I like the way that the story unfolds, and I like the way that Blackburn plots and executes the ideas. He did a good job of disguising what was going to happen next, and it was satisfying even if it was somewhat obvious the direction he was going. I did come away with a few questions about the plot (e.g. the purpose of her dog, Talbot, having the same affliction and how they always transformed at the same time), but these are not nagging enough to distract from this being an enjoyable, fun book to read. There were some great sentences in this book, some that I reread a few times because of the structure and the magnitude of feeling and description that he was able to put into so few words. Mix some poetic moments with a story that is fun and interesting with characters you enjoy, and what is not to really love about this novella? 

End Note:

There has not been a single novella I have read that I have had to search for in the house more than this one. Even though my two year old twins like to carry my current reads around the house, they would take this one and hide it. I found it several times in their room, under the bed, or just right next to them while they watched TV. I figure it has something to do with the size (perfect for little hands), and maybe the front picture, but it was interesting knowing that I had to track this one down every time I wanted to read it.

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Review: Simantov by Asaf Ashery

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Angry Robot website


Women disappear from streets, clubs, and rooftops leaving the police dazed and confused. The mystical Soothsayer Task Force must use their special skills to divine the truth and solve the mystery.

Detectives Simantov and Bitton, along with their team of mystic agents, try to make sense of the weird crime scenes and even weirder forensic findings. The victims are seemingly unconnected and the only clues to their disappearances are the small objects they leave behind; a whip, a feather, a lock of hair…

Together with Mazzy’s instincts and Yariv’s stubbornness, they realise that these abductions signal the start of an apocalypse – a war between opposing hosts of angels, the daughters of Lilith and the Nephilim. The battle for access to heaven is underway and humans are caught in the middle. But strong as they may be, angels will always underestimate the power and weight in human free will.

This is the English translation from the original Hebrew text, translated by Marganit Weinberger-Rotman.


Angry Robot releases a wide variety of Science Fiction/Fantasy/Weird stuff novels, so it is no surprise that they have opted to publish Simantov by Asaf Ashery. Originally published in Hebrew, the story is part police procedure/part apocalypse. Mazzy Simantov leads a group of mystical detectives filled with coffee ground and tarot card readers, soothsayers, and clairvoyants, to help with cases the routine police cannot solve. When women start to get kidnapped by angels, they are called in to help solve the case.

There are some things that I did not like about the novel, but I wonder if some of it is due more to the translation than the actual original text. Since I am reading a translation, there are some things that could have been treated differently in the original text. I did not like how dismissive the main character is to her husband, Gabby. We are not really told how their relationship had been before the novel, but he is to the place where he is doing things to try to win her affection, and when he gets what little he receives from her, he is grateful and she is dismissive. I don’t know if this is one of the character traits that Ashery wants, but by making her this sort of person in her personal life, it makes me feel like the rest of her roles as a daughter, officer of the law, and hero, seem tainted. There are some ways that this tenseness between husband and wife carries too much weight at the end of the novel. I also do not like that there seems to be a workaround for every situation. Like if someone gets hurt, there’s a spell for that. If some problem is unsolved, there’s a tarot reading for that. For a book that is part police procedural, all of the clues they find are not used much. Instead Ashery uses a “Well it’s because they have mysticism on their side” way of solving the crimes. The actual detective work is very slim because it is easier to solve the puzzles with mysticism.

I did not hate this novel though. It was pretty entertaining despite its flaws. Some of the writing (or translating) is a little clunky at times, but I didn’t hate it. I wish I could do half stars because it deserves more than three but less than four. I think I have to round down in this instance, but if I could, I’d give it three and a half stars. Its slightly better than average, but not by too much. 

I love that Angry Robot published this, and there needs to be more sci-fi/fantasy in translation. They are a press that always takes risks, and even though this one did not turn out perfect, the door needs to stay open for other books in translation. 

I received this ARC through Angry Robot and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Mud Ballad by Jo Quenell

Buy it here: Weird Punk Books


In a dying railroad town, a conjoined twin wallows in purgatory for the murder of his brother. A disgraced surgeon goes to desperate ends to reconnect with his lost love. When redemption comes with a dash of black magic, the two enter a world of talking corpses, flesh-eating hogs, rude mimes, and ritualistic violence.


I am shocked that Mud Ballad by Jo Quenell has not taken off like wildfire. Sometimes you read a book that will always be underappreciated regardless of how much praise and readership that it gets, and Mud Ballad will be this book for a long period of time. The novella is not very long, but you are taken on a journey by Jo Quenell while they write one of the most brutal, bloody, muddy, horrible books about horrible people. The novella takes place in Spudville, a town that has seen better days with citizens who have never seen any of them. A sideshow comes through and while in the town, Daniel Crabb decides to kill his conjoined twin, Jonathan, to gain his own freedom. This causes him to get banished from the sideshow and Spudville is where he stays, wallowing in grief and torment.

There is so much in this book, so much story and plot that it has something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a story of loss, a story of redemption, a story about sideshow people, a story about the devil, a story about fighting pigs, a story about fighting kids, a story about suicidal thoughts, a story about alcoholism, a story about love, a story about violence or a story about brotherhood, this has it all (plus a few more themes that I am purposefully omitting because every reader needs some surprises.) This novella has so much packed into 130 pages that it is overwhelming to even try to discuss. It reminds me of the movies of Larry Cohen where there is so much plot and subplot and sub-subplot that the readers feel like they have been on a journey by the time they get to the end. This is not to say that this plotting subtracts from the character development. We get a good feeling about the sorrow that Daniel Crabb and Dawes, the sideshow doctor that separated the twins after one of them were dead, expresses really makes them compelling. Also make no mistake. This novella is brutal and violent. There is not a single sentence of this book that is wasted. Quenell really expresses their talent in writing this novella, and I will be following their work. All I can say right now is that everyone needs to read this one.

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Review: The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

Buy here: Bookshop


Gates Foster lost his daughter, Lucy, seventeen years ago. He’s never stopped searching. Suddenly, a shocking new development provides Foster with his first major lead in over a decade, and he may finally be on the verge of discovering the awful truth.

Meanwhile, Mitzi Ives has carved out a space among the Foley artists creating the immersive sounds giving Hollywood films their authenticity. Using the same secret techniques as her father before her, she’s become an industry-leading expert in the sound of violence and horror, creating screams so bone-chilling, they may as well be real.

Soon Foster and Mitzi find themselves on a collision course that threatens to expose the violence hidden beneath Hollywood’s glamorous façade. A grim and disturbing reflection on the commodification of suffering and the dangerous power of art, THE INVENTION OF SOUND is Chuck Palahniuk at the peak of his literary powers–his most suspenseful, most daring, and most genre-defying work yet.


I used to be quite a big Chuck Palahniuk fan, my first books being Survivor and Fight Club. I read his first few books like they were the best horror literature that I’ve ever read. I read most of his earlier stuff, but quit around the time when he wrote the book about the guy waiting in line for the porn star who trying to set the world record for sleeping with the most people in a row. I kind of felt Chuck Palahniuk is for the young, and I had aged out of enjoying his new work. I still had fond memories of many of his books, particularly Haunted and Choke.

Fast forward to over a decade later. His new novel, The Invention of Sound is coming out by his new publisher, Grand Central Publishing, and I was thinking, “Maybe I should give him a try again. See what he’s up to.” I requested the ARC, and after a few days of reading, I knew that maybe it was time for me to pay attention to him again. The Invention of Sound is two stories that eventually intertwine. The first is Gates Foster trying to find his daughter, whom disappeared seventeen years earlier. He is kind of going crazy with grief, thinking that many little girls are actually his Lucy, even though Lucy would be much older than his memory of her. He spends his life trying to find her and trying to capture sex traffickers on the internet. The second story is Mitzi Ives, a person who works for Hollywood, selling screams to film productions. These screams are farmed with her special techniques, passed down to her by her father. Mitzi is a mess of a person, and her entire story seems to be her trying to find something other than herself to hold onto. These two stories crash into each other, and the novel feels like all of the characters are in a car, speeding toward a brick wall. 

I did not know that this was how Palahniuk is writing now. There is still the crazy, shock horror elements, and some of themes still seem to be about longing to belong and creating a space in a society that does not exactly what to give you that space, but there is also a maturity here that I do not recognize from some of his past works. It feels like Palahniuk might have realized that his audience is growing up, and instead of trying to go with “let’s overthrow the corporate structure,” like in Fight Club, it is “let’s prey on the biggest fears of parents and adults.” This can be the novel that brings back those older fans that have strayed away from his works while continuing to satisfy everyone with the shock and horror that he has brought since the beginning. I know that I will start following his works closely again because I feel like he is maturing with his audience. 

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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