By Scott Cole
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Pub Date: October 20, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I might have to explain this but I think I may have just read a novel by the Robert Sheckley of Bizarro.
For those not in the know, Robert Sheckley was a science fiction writer renowned for his comedic and satiric take on the future. He often came across as a science fiction version of Robert Benchley. If you don't know who Robert Benchley was, I give up. Look it up yourself. In his best works, which tended to be his short humorous fiction, Sheckley had an easy going style that belied the sharp social criticism of modern society that was usually hidden in his prose. Sheckley had a knack for taking the most serious speculative ideas and placing them in funny but thoughtful pieces of fiction.
I am not sure if Scott Cole had a message in his very funny but surprisingly lighthearted Bizarro novella SuperGhost. It is quite likely that he was just having fun. But the rest fits. In a genre that often goes overboard with weirdness, SuperGhost stands out for throwing that bizarreness into a very real situation: Two individuals who are dealing with the loss of their limbs from tragic accidents and are plagued by the very real phenomena of phantom limbs. It is not necessarily the natural playground for the absurd but when coupled with a mad scientist who wants to take those phantom limbs and merge them onto his very own ghost Frankenstein, it becomes a clever and intelligent farce. SuperGhost in turn becomes playfully outrageous but not offensive. It is the type of story that causes you to do double takes at the strangeness of it but makes you laugh and keeps you laughing and shaking your head long after you read it. This may sound weird in itself, but the strange ideas of SuperGhost actually comes out almost believable in Cole's telling, which is a bizarre achievement in itself.
There is little horrific about Superghost even if the creatures the writer conjures up are grotesquely awful. They are more "eww...funny!" then just "Eww!". The characters are mainly there to fit the story yet the three protagonists who take up the quest to fight the scientist and get those limbs back come across very real in motivation and very likeable. The character whose job is to create new ice cream flavors does sound like someone who could have come out of a Robert Sheckley story. Yet I do not want to go on and on about that comparison because Cole clearly has his own thing going. SuperGhost is a first novel and frankly a bit of a teaser since it makes me want to read more by Cole. I do hope he continues exploring the humorous side of Bizarro and examining that fine line that can meld the surreal and satirical with the real world.