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Seraphina Ramon will stop at nothing to find out the truth about why her sister Eff is in a coma after a very suspicious “accident.” Even if it means infiltrating the last place Seraphina knows Eff was alive: a once-abandoned amusement park now populated by a community of cultists.
Follow Seraphina through the mouth of the Goblin: To the left, a wolf-themed roller coaster rests on the blackened earth, curled up like a dead snake. To the right, an animatronic Humpty Dumpty falls off a concrete castle and shatters on the ground, only to reform itself moments later. Up ahead, cultists giggle as they meditate in a hall of mirrors. This is the last place in the world Seraphina wants to be, but the best way to investigate this bizarre cult, is to join them.
I am a little obsessed with Jeremy C. Shipp. If anyone were to ask me the most underread author I know, their name would be the first on my list. I have enjoyed everything I have read by them, and I have been reading them since the short story collection, Sheep and Wolves from 2008. It is no surprise that I came into reading The Merry Dredgers with a slanted viewpoint, but I will still stand behind my opinions, even as a Jeremy Shipp stan.
The Merry Dredgers is narrated by Seraphina Ramon, a person who dresses like a princess for children’s parties, lives with her cat, Heracles, has a car that is falling apart, and has a sister Eff, who has joined what is obviously a cult. When Eff has an accident, Phina does what any sister would do: go investigate the cult because they are obviously at fault. The Merry Dredgers live in an old amusement park, Goblintropolis. This amusement park would be a frightening place on any day, but now that a group of people that Phina does not trust lives there, the entire experience feels like there is danger around every corner.
There are a few different layers to The Merry Dredgers. Besides having the mystery of whether or not the cult is at fault for Eff’s accident, we are also given Phina’s journey of self-discovery. The mission of the Merry Dredgers are to dig into themselves to find the core of their beings through meditation, vegetarianism, and a little hallucinogenic drug use. The whole idea is the explore your inner-self until you find the merriment at your core. But like any group of people that is too happy, can this happiness be trusted?
Shipp writes stories that feel like a fever dream narrated by a sleep paralysis demon. There is a large focus on the settings and the scenery of the goblin-themed amusement park, and for Seraphina to actually stay after going on some of the amusements makes her braver than I would have been. Shipp likes the creepiness of spiders and tentacles and goblin wars. Many of the scenes has to start with a reminder of how terribly weird the amusement park is. The creations are outlandish, but so are the stories that Phina tells. I love the stories that she makes up as she goes along, and the conversations between her and her love interest Nichelle are very funny.
This book feels like Shipp is writing the book that they want to write. This book is far weirder than their two novellas released by tor.com (Atrocities and Bedfellow). Many sections of this book remind me of Jeremy Shipp’s Twitter account. The tweets that they post are just as creepy and amusing as the construction of this story and this amusement park. I enjoy every aspect of this book, and I am excited to buy extra copies to share with my unsuspecting friends. Maybe one day Jeremy Shipp will get the readership that they deserve. The Merry Dredgers is another step on this path.
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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