ENTROPY IN BLOOM by Jeremy Robert Johnson (Night Shade Books)
There are original writers, those who break the mold and then there are those who never saw a mold to begin with, those who sprung from the womb with pen in one hand and a feral desire to inflict implicit damage with it. Jeremy Robert Johnson is both of those. Familiar with his work (SKULLCRACK CITY made me woozy and giddy and also made me feel like I might be the dumbest fellow on the planet) I was eager to delve into this collection.
The first story is called THE LEAGUE OF ZEROES and tracks the future fad of extreme body modification to disturbing and insane proportions. PERSISTENCE HUNTING gives us the account of a young man and his illegal hobby of petty theft and robbery which spirals as he meets a stripper with a grander scheme. THE OARSMAN is a sliver in unsettling poetic apocalypse while THE GRAVITY OF BENHAM FALLS brings you a haunted house story unlike the others. DISSOCIATIVE SKILLS delivers a gut-punch of gore and tragedy that will leave you dumbstruck. SNOWFALL – I can’t even elaborate on for feel it will rob you of the impact but I will say, My God!
WHEN SUSURRUS STIRS is a Cronenbergian fever dream of a young man and his parasite but it’s so much more. LUMINARY tells the tale of a young man with a flair for natural and organic science. This one is possibly my favorite. It read, to me, like the greatness of early Stephen King and Ray Bradbury sewn together. TRIGGER VARIATION explores the world of extremes and how far we are willing to go to belong. CATHEDRAL MOTHER is motherhood, mutation and message. SWIMMING IN THE HOUSE OF THE SEA is a laceration that you can’t stop touching, can’t keep your fingernails from bothering the angry and screaming edges. It’s a wound of story and it will scar.
SATURN’S GAME brings us a lesson in consequences and repercussions and mental illness. THE SHARP DRESSED MAN AT THE END OF THE LINE is a post-nuclear war tale of a man in his special suit and survival. A FLOOD OF HARRIERS is a tale about collecting debts, regardless of how much time has passed and it’s a doozy. STATES OF CLASS finds a troubled woman in a motel/hotel. The grand finale is a novella titled THE SLEEP OF JUDGES This one is every brutal agent/drug dealer/Tarantino-meets-Peckinpah hallucination you’ve ever had. Drenched in raw pain and anger, it soaks through the page and leaves your fingers sticky. Brilliant.
I say again, brilliant. There is not a bad story in the bunch here. Every single one is an exercise in tight writing and language and giving a middle finger to convention. Johnson tells them well but the way he wants to. I applaud him for that. (John Boden)