Wednesday, May 21, 2014

One Bloody Thing After Another (e-book) by Joey Comeau

One Bloody Thing After Another is horror, but it's more unsettling than scary. It was one of my library e-book checkouts.

There are slight spoilers near the end, in the "Additional Comments" section.

Review:

So. This book was kind of unpleasant. And yet I read it in one sitting, without intending to. I guess that means it was good?

There are basically three storylines, each following different characters. There is Ann, her little sister Margaret, and their mother. There is Jackie, Ann's friend. And there is Charlie and his nearly blind dog, Mitchie.

Everything starts off with Ann and Margaret's mother, who isn't feeling well, to the point that she coughs up a bloody chunk of...something...during an interview. She quickly deteriorates into a mindless monster that craves meat. But not just any meat. No, she needs live animals. Margaret and Ann care for her for a while, until Margaret gets bit and becomes like her mother. Ann continues to search for live animals, while doing her best to hide the horror brewing inside her house from everyone outside, including Jackie.

Jackie is in love with Ann but doesn't know if Ann feels the same way about her. Jackie is also a mess. Ever since her mother died of cancer, she's been living with her father. The only thing that gives her even a little control over her emotions and violent impulses are the trees she has mentally connected with specific events in her life. When she learns that one of those trees has been cut down, she loses it and the police have to be called. Luckily for her, she has a special trick up her sleeve.

Charlie is an elderly man who walks his elderly dog along the same route every day. Every day, he visits the same woman and tries to figure out how to get his own particular horror to finally leave him alone, and, every day, he fails.

The supernatural elements of Ann's storyline were evident pretty much from the start, but Jackie and Charlie's storylines appeared normal enough, at first. I really was planning on reading just a little bit of this book and then quitting for the night. Then I got to the supernatural twists in Charlie and Jackie's storylines, and I just had to see where things were going and how all the pieces fit together.

Like I said earlier, this book was kind of unpleasant. Jackie was violent, to the point of being a danger to herself and possibly to others, and yet no one seemed to do much of anything about it. Jackie's frustrated attraction to Ann, who was clearly uninterested, occasionally made me uncomfortable. She kissed Ann even though Ann didn't show any interest in kissing her back, and her attitude seemed to be “I like her, so why doesn't she like me back?” She was so locked in on her own roiling emotions that she never even tried to figure out why Ann had become so quiet.

As much as Jackie discomfited me, Ann was worse. I'll have to be vague here, in order to avoid spoiling things. On the one hand, yes, she'd been through a lot and she was trying to hold what was left of her family together as best she could. On the other hand, she knew the monsters in her house were no longer her mom and her sister, and yet she continued to do horrible things to take care of them. And, holy crap, how do you suddenly go from “I should buy birds to feed my mom” to what she ended up doing?

If the twists and general story hadn't grabbed me so much, I don't know that I'd have ended up liking this. The short sentences and very simple language irked me. The writing was repetitive—on purpose, I know, but it got to the point that I skimmed some bits.

I was also dissatisfied with all the loose ends and unexplained aspects. Was it ever mentioned how old Jackie and Ann were? Jackie sounded all of 12 years old, but she could have been in high school for all I knew. How did Jackie and Charlie get their abilities? What happened to Ann's mom to turn her into a monster, and why weren't any other infected people mentioned? Why did Ann never once think about Jackie asking her out or kissing her? Yes, she had a lot going on her in her life, what with her family falling apart, but thinking about Jackie could have at least distracted her from the sounds of her sister's screaming.

All in all, this was unsettling and interesting, although I was left wondering “What was the point?”

Additional Comments:

A warning that is also a bit of a spoiler: you may want to avoid this book if you are super-sensitive to cute furry animal and baby deaths. Nothing very gruesome, as far as descriptions go, but deaths do happen. I had to go hug my cat after I was done reading. On the plus side, the last few lines made one of the animal deaths more bearable.

Read-alikes:
  • Faust: Fiction and Manga from the Cutting Edge of Japanese Pop Culture (anthology) - I added this to the list specifically because of one story, "Drill Hole in My Brain" by Otaro Maijo. It's not horror. It's a very surreal story that, like One Bloody Thing After Another, is unsettling and not exactly pleasant. If I remember correctly, two of the characters are a girl with a unicorn horn and a boy with a hole in his head. Not for younger readers, because these two things fit together, if you catch my drift.
  • John Dies at the End (book) by David Wong - I haven't read it, but it popped up when I was looking for more bizarre horror. It sounds like it might be funnier than I ended up thinking Comeau's book was.
  • The Sandman (graphic novel series) by Neil Gaiman - The first book is the series is called Preludes and Nocturnes.This might be a good fit for those who'd like a blend of the supernatural and everyday life. Throughout the series, the lives of beings known as the Endless intersect with the lives of various supernatural beings and ordinary humans. It's all fairly dark and thoughtful.
  • Bleeding Violet (book) by Dia Reeves - Jackie's portions of the book reminded me a bit of Bleeding Violet, a YA contemporary fantasy starring a bipolar heroine. I've written about this book.

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