Monday, 16 January 2017

Reading Challenge: A book from a genre/ subgenre you've never heard of

This looked like something I'd have trouble fulfilling as part of the challenge. I read all kinds of books and couldn't think of any type of fiction I hadn't tried. Off to the interwebs to get a list of genres and see what cropped up. The three I was able to find that were new to me were:

Splatterpunk - the name is apt with violence and bloodshed at a XXX premium.

Jiangshi - a horror subgenre, this one apparently dealing with the scarier elements of Chinese folklore.
Bizarro - a Google search for 'bizarro fiction' brought up a number of books with titles like Space Walrus, Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland and Shatnerquake, I knew I had a winner . . .

Why this particular book? Well, Carlton Mellick III appeared to be one of the more popular bizarro fiction writers and the blurb on Amazon said the story was partly based on And Then There Were None, the first Agatha Christie book I ever read and one of my favourites of hers. The title also stuck with me - how many books have you ever heard of with a reference to menstruation in the title, beyond non-fiction aimed at teenage girls? Just the one for me - and this is it.

The story is narrated by John and set in present day America. He’s a bit of a nobody, neatly hooked in to consumer culture which requires he works the hours he doesn’t shop so he can afford to do the shopping. The mall is one of his favourite places and he drifts from shop to shop, buying things he doesn’t really need, deriving pleasure from his purchases and how pleasurable it is to buy things. He finishes his shopping trip and goes to leave the mall. And can’t. To begin with he doesn’t read too much into it and does a bit more shopping. As closing time approaches and further attempts to leave the mall end in failure he begins to understand he is stuck there. A couple of days pass and he realises he is not alone.

Any similarity to And Then There Were None is brief. There are ten trapped in the mall, and they do start getting picked off one by one, but that's where the similarities end. The first victims perish via mundane types of murder but as the book progresses the deaths gets stranger. Having said at the top of this post that I'm not a fan of extreme gore, there was violence in this book. Chloe (John's love interest) gets hold of a bat'leth and uses it, as you can see from the cover above. At one point, someone gets the attention of another character by throwing a bit of their innards at him. There’s sex too and the language used is pretty frank so if you like your lovin’ fluffy with hearts, flowers and not a single reference to dildos this is not the book for you.

I enjoyed TMM, reading it in two sittings. The pace was quick with no great tracts of dawdling description. What description there was set up scenes that were easy to visualise though at times (especially the piece in the cinema with the animal bits in a mound) this was a bit disturbing. I would have liked more characterisation but as one of the central themes of the book was how lacking in individual character the main players were I think this was purposeful. The book is laced throughout with contempt of consumer culture and the compulsive spending generation. The concept that you can buy individuality through expensive purchases is vilified – the killer leaves a message to the survivors challenging them to break their moulds and many have no idea how to do this, changing their clothing style with the belief that this changes who they are.

Carlton Mellick III

Did this book live up to the bizarro tag? Oh hell yes! It began deceptively 'normal' but by the end had become something utterly other. Knowing what genre The Menstruating Mall was definitely helped as I was prepared for things to get weird. If you are someone who can take a book at face value regardless of how strange things get, you will do well with bizarro fiction. If however you need answers to questions like ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘WHAT?!?!’ then turn aside, fair reader, and pursue other genres. 

Would I read anything else in this genre and/or by this author? Yes. Getting this genre of book from libraries will prove an issue so I think these will be kindle specials but I can definitely see myself investing in some more bizarro fiction.

7 out of 10 mall burgers

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