By Garrett Cook
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Pub. Date: January 17, 2015
Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars
You can't say the author doesn't warn you. His new collection of short fiction is appropriately titled You Might Just Make it Out of This Alive. It is a trip down the literary rabbit hole. The fiction of Garrett Cook has a manic dadaism reminiscence of Manga as drawn by Dali and directed by Bunuel. The strangest stories are crowded with run-away images, like the first one, "Re-Mancipator" where a plague of Lincoln Zombies are hunted down by John Wilkes Booth and Marilyn Monroe. Other stories in the collection that feature this Bizarro overload include "The Adventures of Blackmetal Bjorn and Accomplice Boy...in Technicolor!" " and "Dieselpig". Cook definitely knows how to write catchy titles. Yet while these are fun pieces destined to boil your brain they seem to wear you out quickly. Unlike his almost-a-novel Time Pimp, where he takes time in his manic storm to create a full world, the ideas in these stories speed through without time to simmer, somewhat destroying any nuances. But they are still amazing pieces of strangeness that I highly recommend.
Yet there are some stories in the collection that seem more than flashy comic masterpieces. They show a more nuanced side without sacrificing the weirdness, the sex and the violence. Most of them involve intimacy, often meaning both the pursue and the fear of. which seems to be a constant theme in Cook's works. "Beast with Two Backs" still haunt me. Using the image of the freak show, it explores the merging and ripping of psyches in sex. "Along the Crease" seems somewhat similar and may be my favorite story in the book. It follows a relation that could end the world, as our protagonists are warned of by the angels. How does one respond? Do they become altruistic and ignore their own needs or indulge in an act that will fulfill them while insuring mass destruction? It is a heady story that succeeds through Cook's intense Bizarro style.
The nice thing about the author is, whether he throws out all rules in a psychedelic cartoon smorgasbord or explores those dark and scary corners of our psyches, he is still Garrett Cook. He is unique. Sex and violence permeate every tale and is always part of the Cook landscape. There are plenty of good stories here and just a couple head scratchers. Other tales I like include "The Donor" which disturbs me to review because I have to say "sensitive", "beautiful" and "cannibalism" all in the same sentence. There is also "Hit and Fun" which is sort of like a father and son tale yet sort of not.
The bottom line is that the author knows how to write. He also knows how to scare you and baffle you and revels in doing both in the same story. If Garrett's images and manic writing gets ahead of him occasionally, don't worry. The next story will pull you back in and, if lucky, you might just make it out of this alive.