This winter has been a good season for reading as I try to catch up on the bizarro fiction that lines my shelves. I’ve discovered some great new authors and returned to some old standbys. Below are the five bizarre books I enjoyed the most.
1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Though the year has only begun, I can say with certainty that Kafka on the Shore will remain my favorite book of 2020. I’ve heard for years what an amazing author Murakami is and I finally decided to test that. It is magical realism from a very surreal perspective, populated with some of my favorite characters ever. We follow two different stories: “Kafka” Tamura, a 15-year-old runaway, and Nakata, an old man who can talk to cats. We watch as these seemingly separate stories converge. It is a tangled web of a tale, with lost spirits, what-the-f—- moments, and an oedipal storyline that made me a bit uncomfortable—something I can’t do justice to in a short blurb, suffice to say I could not put it down. At 467 pages, it is the longest book on this list, but every page is worth it.
2. The Flesh Molder’s Love Song by Roland Blackburn
This debut novella struck all the right chords for me: a clearly bizarro tale filled with body horror á la David Cronenberg that poses my favorite question, “What if?” Rain discovers he has a special gift: he can manipulate flesh. He can add muscle to his build, shape features into society’s idea of perfection, and even turn his enemies into balls of flesh. This novella earns the Number Two slot for the way it sucks the reader in; its imagery makes you forget that you’re reading a book as you follow along on this addictive adventure. See my full review here.
3.Squid Pulp Blues by Jordan Krall
This collection of three novellas—all set in fictional Thompson, NJ—explores the bizarre underworld of this peculiar town. Though separate stories, the characters, events, and imagery bleed into each other; from the town’s mysterious population of mutated war veterans called “longheads” to an odd collective obsession with Barbara Stanwyck. This is the first time I’ve seen crime fiction married with bizarro and it is executed with astounding results. Multiple people have recommended Krall to me and after this book, I can see why. He’s definitely on my radar.
4.Mouse Trap by Carlton Mellick III
I don’t know how Carlton does it. Mouse Trap is his 59th book in two decades. You would think that quantity would sacrifice quality, but every book I’ve ever read by him has been amazing. Mouse Trap is no different. Aliens have invaded Earth with the intention of eradicating our species. These spacemen see us as mere vermin and fill the world with hidden deadly traps. We follow a group of kids as they navigate these traps through an amusement park, their numbers dropping one by one, and learn that humans can be just as cruel as their alien overlords. An odd concept, yes, but the book shines with that Mellick brilliance. A fun, quick read that’ll have you clamoring for his next book.
5. I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today by Brian Asman
One of the things I love most about bizarro fiction is the previously unthought-of combinations, in the case of Brian Asman’s novella: the movie Clerks and demons from hell. Scot Kring wants only to buy a slushy from Fasmart when a homeless man summons a demon in the image of director Kevin Smith. For the second time in his life now, Scot must vanquish the creature or risk hell coming to Earth. This slim volume can be read in a single sitting. It is a roller coaster of absolute horrific fun as the majority of the book is one continuous scene, a winning combination of humor, horror, and the bizarre. I’m excited to see what Asman puts out next.