I love grotesque horror. Stephen King, Christopher Fowler, Wes Craven, It all works for me. I think the main reason is that it defies terror by being silly. Psychological horror plays with the mind but grotesque horror is a visual spectacle of gore that I find difficult to take seriously. I hate fear that gets inside your head and makes you unsure of what’s real and what’s not. My imagination is strange enough and needs no help in that department. So give me monsters and chainsaws. Give me Jigsaws traps and King’s creatures from “The Mist”. For me there’s no better way to be afraid than to laugh at it.
The day after my 26th birthday I went book shopping. This is always a big deal for me and is probably one of my main expenses each month. I don’t know if it was because I was slightly hungover or maybe I was realising that I’m now closer to 30 than 20 but I wanted to find something fun. Staring at me from the shelves was a bright green novel with a Rorschach type skull on the front. It was called “The Unnoticable’s” and was written by Robert Brockway. The premise had me hooked from the blurb. Tar men, faceless ones, gun toting guardian angels and 1970’s punk. This was going to be good!
This was going to be ok! The book missed the mark a little bit for me. Mainly because you never get a full explanation as to what on earth is happening. Something about Lubricating the Gears of the World I think. Seriously. We jump backwards and forwards between 1970’s New your and Modern day LA so quickly that the book takes on a rambling feel that I found made it difficult to really dive into. Also a lot of the characters seemed a bit vague and two dimensional. This included one of the two main characters, Kaitlin. I felt that there wasn’t enough of her to make me care if she survived. For a heroine that’s not exactly a strong portrayal.
There were two saving graces that made this book really enjoyable for me. The first is Carey. Carey is the second of the two main characters. He’s a punk who drinks, smokes, belabours his lack of a sex life and is just a little bit pathetic. He’s also one of the funniest and most engaging characters that I’ve come across in a long time. It’s always nice to come across a fallible hero. It’s like realising that your narrator is unreliable. Carey is not a knight in shining armour; He’s an alcoholic on a junkyard motorbike. In fact every time he tries to save the day something inevitably goes wrong resulting in grievous injuries to himself or horrific death to others. It’s his sense of loyalty to his friends that stands out though. Even though he moans about them constantly and wishes they’d leave him, and his beer stash, alone, he goes through hell to try and save them. If Robert Brockway ever reads this then please Mr Brockway, please write a whole series about Carey. Netflix would be on the rights in a heartbeat.
The second thing that makes this book stand out is the gore. Brockway pulls no punches and it left me wondering what kind of mind came up with some of the scenes. Those of a weak constitution should not read this book! I read large chunks of this on the tube and found myself wincing at some of the descriptions. I won’t go into huge amounts of detail. Firstly because I don’t want to spoil it for those who are going to read and secondly because I don’t want to spoil dinner for those who are going to be eating soon. All I’ll say is that there’s a blood orgy scene that will make your hair stand on end. This is what’s brilliant about the book and why I, and others like me, read it. We like to be grossed out. There’s very little that genuinely makes us feel uncomfortable now because we see it so much in film and TV. But reading it is a different story. Every detailed rib snapping like dry twigs or blood spraying artery causes us to imagine it happening. It is the ultimate emotional response and, despite its silliness at times, it reminds us to be slightly afraid.
So who should read this? Any Stephen King fans will love this. Also, any Buffy the vampire slayer fans who don’t mind a little extra blood with their slaying. I’m really glad that I read this. It was a great doorway back into a genre that I hadn’t explored for a while. I’m looking forward to more.