Monday, October 21, 2013

Not your father's horror novel

Sociopaths in Love

By Andersen Prunty

Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars

Of all the new writers in the past five years, Andersen Prunty is the one that most impresses me. Writing in the indie ghetto called Bizarro. Prunty has the unique talent of being able to be off-the-wall in a surrealistic Dali sort of way yet can grab onto the readers' emotions and show parts of themselves they may have never accepted. He has one foot in Psycho Land and one foot in Everyman's earthly angst. He is the only writer that I can read and yell "WTF!" while simultaneously thinking, "Yeah man, I hear you!". He's a weird cross between Vonnegut, Kafka, and Wiley Coyote.

Sociopaths in Love is a good example of his work. We are introduced to a rather boring girl named Erica who takes care of her invalid grandmother. Walt enters her apartment, rapes her, shoots Grandma in the head and Erica falls instantly in love ready to follow him into what he promises to be a liberating experience. His mantra is "I can do anything I want" and that anything will include rape, murder, cannibalism, and a few other perversions we won't go into now.

Are you still with me? You haven't ran away in disgust? Good. Because this is one book where a brief description of the plot doesn't do it justice. Walt has the ability to go unnoticed which allows him to steal, eat in restaurants without paying and kill with impunity. Erica discovers she has the same ability. In one instance, he wheels a wheelbarrow with a corpse in it through a hotel lobby without anyone raising an eyebrow. This is the sort of thing that can only happen in Prunty's world. Walt's ability to be ignored, to be almost invisible, seems to copy a sociological condition called Alienation; the state or experience of being isolated from the society to which one should belong or in which one should be involved. Walt has turned alienation into a life art which he does the most repulsive thing with no real disfavor or emotion. Erica is pulled into this world with some hesitation, at time being repulsed but also being intrigued. This is falling in love with the bad boy taken to the ultimate extreme. Prunty is doing his thing by turning an understandable dilemma into the grotesque and unspeakable.

This is not for everyone. I think most people will be disgusted by the excess gore and violence. In fact, the reason I didn't give this 5 stars is because I felt the extreme violence of the story did go overboard at times in the extent that it causes the reader to lose the connection with Erica and Walt. They may be unlikable but there is something magnetic about their relationship. Maybe you can't identify with having a boy friend that eats people but I bet you can think of a past relationship you had in which you stayed too long with the only reason to stay being "I love him".

Prunty's strength is that he takes these human dilemmas to extremes and puts them in a surreal universe where the weirder it is, the more acceptable it becomes. Horror novels, and perhaps Bizarro, is all about placing yourself in an environment you never want to be and allowing it to be a cathartic release. But great horror also uses that cathartic release to allow you to see something in yourself or your environment that you can now deal in a more positive state of awareness. Sociopaths in Love is great horror.

Method Acquired:  Purchased

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