The Flesh Molder’s Love Song by Roland Blackburn
If you could fix any part of your appearance, what would it be? That’s a stupid hypothetical, you might say. But for Rain, it no longer is. And his power doesn’t stop at the exterior; he’s a sculptor and the human body is his clay.
It all begins in a parking garage. Our seemingly ordinary protagonist is returning from visiting his terminally ill aunt, the woman who raised him, when a mugger approaches. With only a touch, Rain turns the man into a ball of flesh. He soon discovers this power can do a lot more.
Once in a while, a book comes along that tells a story you’ve always wanted to read, but never knew existed. For me, that was Roland Blackburn’s The Flesh Molder’s Love Song. It is part of the New Bizarro Author Series, an imprint of Eraserhead Press focusing on an author’s first foray into the genre. These can be hit or miss, but Blackburn’s novella is a resounding success, one of the best of the Series I’ve read. He achieves this in a multitude of ways.
The Flesh Molder’s Love Song is the perfect blend of fascinating plot, well-formed characters, subtle humor, and a strong theme that is neither saccharine nor in-your-face. The prose itself is well-crafted. So much bizarro fiction is written in a colloquial style that it was refreshing to see the English language used to its full extent.
Where the book truly succeeds is in its imagery. It is one of those books that plays beautifully in the mind, as if one isn’t reading it, but rather watching a mental movie. Very few hiccups break this magic. Blackburn possesses a real skill with metaphor and simile, planting an image immediately in your head, and often sparking a chuckle. The book is full of vivid, Cronenberg-esque body horror, described in disturbing detail until you can see with your own eyes someone’s face sloughing off like taffy.
But beyond all this, Blackburn strikes a certain chord. Stories where characters become more than they are—in this case gaining the ability to manipulate flesh—have a special allure, feeding off our innate desire to be something greater than we are. Blackburn executes this to its full potential, sparking that beautiful, frightening, exciting question “what if?” For who among us hasn’t wished to change something about their body, whether staring in a mirror or contemplating that evil within us known as disease.
Without giving it away, the story has a satisfying ending. It is not a fast read, though that isn’t necessarily a problem. I did dock this otherwise stellar novel a point as the writing itself is good but not great. A line here and there felt amateurish. But for a first novel, it was a remarkable achievement.
The Flesh Molder’s Love Song leaves us with many questions. Not the least of which is this: if we had the power to change our appearance, would we ever stop? Would we ever achieve “perfection”? Blackburn has us contemplate our own superficiality and any book that causes us to reflect inward is worth reading. At least for me.