Unfit is a fascinating mix of dystopian science fiction, bizarro, and splatterpunk that blends smoothly into a narrative that is equal parts disturbing, heartbreaking, and sardonically hilarious. Clarissa has a crying baby in her cart. We’ve all seen it before, many of us having experienced it from Clarissa’s perspective. It’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing. Other shoppers judge her as she desperately struggles to get the baby to be quiet…but nothing calms the infant. There’s only one way to silence the crying and screeching, and this is where everything takes a particularly dark turn, followed by a few more turns. R. J. Benetti has essentially written an episode of Black Mirror that hasn’t been optioned yet, and it’s almost a shame this isn’t a more visual medium, except that I’m not sure anyone would want to see this played out on screen. If you’re looking for social commentary and bleak prognostication, this is the story for you.
This title was released as a Godless exclusive title that you can obtain for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below:
It’s worth mentioning right away that I have always been a fan of David Lynch’s admittedly flawed adaptation of Dune from 1984. I saw that movie on cable television sometime in the mid-1980s, and though I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, I found myself captivated by everything happening on screen. I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old at the time, so I clearly hadn’t read the novel yet. It was, in fact, the impact of that barely remembered movie that influenced me to read the novel later in life. Since then, I have read and re-read the original six novels as well as almost all of the supplemental books written by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, and Kevin J. Anderson. Dune is something I can’t seem to get enough of, and it all started with a young boy seeing the confusing experience unfold on an old box television. I’m also somewhat fond of the 2000 miniseries John Harrison directed for the Sci-Fi Channel, though substantially less so than the version provided by Lynch. I’ve seen multiple versions of the 1984 release of Dune, owning it on VHS and later on DVD and Blu-ray, with collector’s editions that included multiple cuts of the film. There are a lot of things to love about the 1984 adaptation of Dune, from the dark tones to the dialogue ripped directly from the novel, and the overall aesthetic from set design to costumes and makeup. There are also a lot of things to dislike about it, most notably the significant deviations from the source material and the condensed narrative that ignores some of the most important components and sidelines numerous characters to the background. For most of my life, I expected Lynch’s vision, as corrupted as it was by studio interference, to be the best possible version of Dune I’d ever see on the screen. I was wrong. As soon as I heard Denis Villeneuve was going to direct a two-part adaptation of Dune, I knew something I’d wanted to witness most of my life was finally coming to be. After seeing Arrival, Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Ted Chiang short, “Story of Your Life,” and the spectacular sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Blade Runner, I knew there was no other director who could bring Dune to life with any chance of successfully capturing everything important. His previous movies like Sicario and Prisoners were good, and they showcased an impressive directorial talent, but it was Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 that blew me away and made him one of my favorite directors. Having seen his vision for Dune, or at least the first part of the narrative terminating as Paul and Jessica meet up with the Fremen, I felt like a childhood dream had finally come true. Everything about this movie was more than I could have hoped for. Though it lacked the directly adapted dialogue Lynch brought over from the novel, it more truly captured every beat of the story in a way Lynch’s vision didn’t even attempt to approach. Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Paul Atreides is nuanced and captures the fear Paul experiences in response to the changes he feels in himself as well as the visions of a future he’s horrified to witness. More age-appropriate to the role than Kyle MacLachlan was, he captures the youth and aborted innocence of the young Atreides. Similarly, Rebecca Ferguson captures the role of Lady Jessica Atreides spectacularly well, portraying a woman torn between two worlds and two vastly different sets of loyalties. The rest of the cast is no less fantastic in their designated roles. Each individual proved themselves to be capable of thoroughly projecting their characters with such quality that I never once felt like I’d have preferred the original cast. I look forward to experiencing more of the performances from Zendaya (Chani), Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck), Stellan Skarsgard (Baron Harkonnen), Dave Bautista (Rabban Harkonnen), and Javier Bardem (Stilgar) when the second half of the epic story hits the screen in 2023. The cinematography was jaw-dropping at times, and the sets and landscapes were captured with vivid detail that made the experience of watching the movie an immersive one. The score provided by Hans Zimmer was the most surprising aspect of the movie, incorporating hints of the score TOTO provided for the 1984 adaptation of Dune. At no point going into this had I anticipated that there would be such a respectful nod to what had been a stellar score, one that I still consider one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. I will spend the next two years eagerly anticipating the release of the second half of Dune, and I will also spend that time daydreaming that Villeneuve gets the green light to direct an adaptation of Dune Messiah.
I don’t know when–or even if–I’ll have a chance to play Aliens: Fireteam, but listening to the audiobook for Weston Ochse’s Aliens: Infiltrator certainly sets the stage for a fascinating and original action/horror gaming experience. If I never get around to playing the game, it won’t be for lack of interest, and it certainly won’t be due to this book disappointing me. The protagonist, Dr. Hoenikker, serves as a cipher of sorts, the lens through which we experience the introduction to the Weyland-Yutani scientific facility. While there’s ample character development across the board, Hoenikker being the newest member of the scientific team provides us with a great opportunity to experience everything through a fresh set of eyes. With his military experience, Ochse does a fantastic job bringing the supporting cast of characters to life, particularly the former Colonial Marines on staff at Pala Station. With Murphy’s Law in full effect, Dr. Hoenikker joins the crew of Pala Station just as an infiltrator begins a campaign of corporate espionage. As with the real world, this relatively small trouble of spying and theft escalates in a cascade effect that explodes into an utter nightmare by the conclusion. Laboratory experiments go horribly wrong, communication breaks down, and everything falls apart. Experimenting with what we’ve come to think of as the black goo from the Alien prequel films from Ridley Scott, we encounter some interesting and dangerous creatures produced from the local fauna, potentially more deadly than the Xenomorphs we’ve all come to know and love. This being an Alien novel, of course, there are Xenomorphs in the mix, and we get further exposure to how the black goo can modify the outcome of the genesis taking place. Bronson Pinchot’s narration is sufficiently skilled that the characters almost always sound distinctly separate and discernable as individual actors in the narrative playing out. I especially enjoyed the performance for Rawlings, who I couldn’t help but picture as an African American Matthew McConaughey. The only instances where Pinchot’s narration failed was concerning female characters, but I’ve heard worse over time.
Firefly: Generations begins with the story of a map. This star map changes hands many times, through treachery or happenstance, but this is no mere map, and those who take it into their possession seem to somehow recognize that fact without being fully conscious of it. The truth of the map only reveals itself when it finds its way into the hands of River Tam, where hidden machinery embedded in the material activates. From there, we find ourselves following most of Serenity’s crew into the outer reaches of the verse, where deadly secrets await them amidst an awe-inspiring relic of the history before mankind reached their new homes on the planets and moons the Firefly crew is familiar with. This novel falls somewhere after the prematurely canceled television series, though before Inara and Book had permanently left the crew and retired to the locations where we meet them again in the movie Serenity. Tim Lebbon takes the helm in this fourth Firefly novel, telling us a story that fills in gaps in the mystery that is the life of River Tam, the secret experiments conducted by Alliance scientists, and the centuries-past journey from Earth that was. Generations is a far different tale than those contained in the three previous Firefly novels, focusing on the more science fiction elements of the property rather than on the land-based adventures of the crew. It’s a nice transition, receiving this glimpse into the less western-themed exploits of Serenity and the family that calls her home. Foster’s narration seems only to be improving with each subsequent audiobook release. As he more firmly captures the nuances and patterns of speech for the individual characters, one could almost close their eyes and envision the cast playing their parts.
Attempting to provide a traditional review of Reekfeel’s three Alien Sex Fluids titles would be to perform a disservice. It could be argued that this is simply me attempting to rationalize the fact that I am in no way capable of properly reviewing the material contained within these shorts. Packed with a sort of free association or stream of consciousness writing that more accurately resembles poetry than narrative prose, Reekfeel’s Alien Sex Fluids plays fast and loose with both language and structure. One almost has simply to let the words–the sounds and visual elements implicit in those words–flow over and around them, dragging the reader along through the cacophony of it all. The free-flowing, anti-literature qualities are most pronounced in Alien Sex Fluids: Experiment 1, where we’re introduced to Nyarlathotep of Lovecraftian fame, and reinterpreted by the author. This is not the being/creature/god as good ol’ Howard Philips wrote it, but rather a mischievous and whimsically cruel thing prone to juvenile outbursts and toilet humor. We are also introduced to the beings/people ostensibly conducting the experiments–or are they the subjects of the experiments?–named after various elements of the periodic table. We’ll get to know them in greater detail in further installments of the series. Reekfeel also takes this time to introduce us to the inhabitants of the garden, strange, child-like creatures without discernable form or function as we perceive it. There’s no conceivable way I could describe the activities during that interlude, and you’ll have to read it for yourself if you want to better understand what I mean. Alien Sex Fluids: Experiment 2 takes on a more prose-like structure in part, diving more into the narrative elements of the overall story being constructed/deconstructed by Reekfeel. We focus more strongly on Selenium, and it’s a strange reversal of norms that the revelation of a dream is more coherently literary than the surrounding material. In Alien Sex Fluids: Experiment 3, we get to witness Reekfeel inserting themself into the narrative in a rather tongue-in-cheek sense, providing a sort of halfhearted apology for how challenging it is to follow along with dialogue from Bismuth as an RPG of some kind is being played to assist Selenium(?). Of course, this only serves to upset Nyarlathotep, who is sharing this story with us through Reekfeel as a conduit. I’d like to say that Experiment 3 continues the more coherent aspects of the narrative as we’d experienced in Experiment 2, but I’d be lying to you, and I’m not a liar! The vast majority of this installment of the series takes place within and is focused around the role-playing taking place, and Reekfeel’s attempt to clear up the mess of multiple dialogues only serves to make it all more of a mess. It’s virtually impossible, as you might understand, to provide a proper review of Alien Sex Fluids, but it’s worth taking the time to dive into the tumultuous, disorganized, yet strangely calculated and lunatic-by-design story you’ll witness unfolding. This is, after all, something being conveyed to us, through Reekfeel, by the crawling chaos itself. If it weren’t indicative of madness, it wouldn’t be authentic. One thing I can say for sure, there’s a certain brilliance and creative imagination impossible to ignore in the distorted, untethered, insanity of Reekfeel’s work.
Experiment 3 was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event over at http://www.godless.com You can pick up all three installments of Alien Sex Fluids by going to the website or by downloading the app to your preferred mobile device. The links to the three current volumes are below:
Trench Mouth begins with a series of vignettes. It begins with human intrusion into the ocean depths upsetting a balance that existed in an alien world on our own planet, drawing a cruel and vicious attention to our existence–our delicious flavor–and ultimately to the surface waters where unsuspecting prey is in abundance. It begins with eight people who have nothing left to lose signing up for a chance to become something more, something new, something better than they are. In the dark depths of the ocean, where Fathom-5 illuminates a tiny patch of ocean floor just beyond a seemingly bottomless trench that carves down into the crust of the Earth, experiments are being conducted. Will Dr. Yale and her colleagues advance the next stage of human evolution, preparing us to venture into a massive new realm largely off limits until now? Will monsters, both man-made and ancient, tear everything apart before we even have a chance to find out for ourselves? We know how it begins. I guess you’ll have to read past the beginning to discover how it ends for yourself. It’s appropriate to talk about how it all begins, because Trench Mouth feels like a beginning, the origin story of some larger tale that might unfold over years to come. I, for one, would gladly join Christine Morgan in the depths again if she chooses to tell us more of this world she’s created. Reminiscent of my favorite underwater science fiction/horror novel, Starfish by Peter Watts (the beginning of his Rifters series), Morgan has done something fantastic with Trench Mouth in telling a story that stands up next to a novel written by a man with a Ph.D and a long history of working as a marine biologist. Nothing feels out of place or poorly researched within these pages, and it makes the whole experience feel that much more immersive. Perhaps my favorite element is the Morgan makes the denizens of the deep feel like fleshed out characters in and of themselves, by sharing perspectives that are at once alien and strangely familiar.
You can obtain this book for yourself wherever books are sold. I will include a couple of links below:
If you take a dash of Brave New World, toss in a healthy dose of Bladerunner, and blend it all with a bit of sadism, you’ll end up with Sweet Tooth by Matthew A. Clarke. It’s a short story that overall feels like a transcript for an episode of Black Mirror. The ultra-wealthy have finally done away with the poor and undesirable, and they’ve replaced those forgotten and discarded people with Hollows. Hollows are manufactured in bulk to perform the menial tasks and services the ruling class deems beneath them. Candy is such a hollow, designed to be an escort–though not in a sexual sense, as she isn’t equipped with the necessary parts. In tribute to the banality of all existence, we first discover Candy is becoming aware beyond her programming because she’s unhappy about someone else deciding how her hair should look. Other Candy models are disappearing, and there appears to be a man involved in those disappearances. Our Candy finds herself in the predicament of needing to unravel the mystery behind the missing hollows while maintaining her facade of going along with her base programming. In a sense, this is a truly depressing, dystopian vision of a possible future, extrapolating on the income inequality and class warfare we already experience. More than that, it showcases that no amount of weeding out undesirables based on social status will erase the sort of people who become serial killers today. Those types of people will always find a new group of “less dead” as criminologist Steven Egger refers to the typical victims of serial murderers. Clarke captures that grim reality in this story. Is there a happy ending? Is such a thing even possible in a world like that? You’ll have to read the damn story for yourself to find out.
Sweet Tooth is a Godless exclusive title available at http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on the mobile device you utilize for reading digital texts. The link for the story is below:
The Book of Accidents may superficially appear to be less epic than Wendig’s previous novel, Wanderers, but there’s so much more beneath the surface. When we first meet Oliver and his family, the story seems to be focused on a family under strain, moving into what could potentially be a haunted house. It doesn’t take Wendig long to dispel those assumptions as he takes the reader on a multiverse-spanning adventure of magic and terror. While the story is filled with interesting characters, Oliver is at the core of it all, in more ways than one. He’s a special boy, empathetic and sensitive, but there’s so much more to him than that. Oliver can see the pain in others in a literal, visceral sense, and the world we’re living in today gives him more than enough pain to witness. Hoping to find some peace for their son, Nate and Maddie move into Nate’s childhood home in rural Pennsylvania after his abusive father passes away. Nate transitions from his life as a Philadelphia police officer to a Pennsylvania Fish & Game warden, and Maddie decides she wants to try a different sort of sculpture from what she’d been creating in the city. Oliver successfully makes new friends on his first day at the new school. Unfortunately, he makes a couple of new enemies as well. If only things could level out at that point, it would be a typical family drama, and the story would be over. Thankfully, for the reader–though not for the family–Wendig is at the helm. The very enemies Oliver makes at school are instrumental in putting him in Jake’s path, and everything begins to fall apart from there. Wherever Jake goes, the collapse is soon to follow. You’ll need to be prepared for anything to happen because there’s no way to go into this one predicting the outcome. It’s masterful the way Wendig brings the disparate threads of narrative together. It astounded me when I was reading Wanderers, and it’s no less astonishing when reading The Book of Accidents.
The Bleed: Rupture is the beginning of something great, for sure. If the combined efforts of Mark Tufo, Chris Philbrook, and the always fantastic David Moody maintain this same sort of quality moving forward, this series will be spectacular. The three authors involved in this project successfully combine body horror, fantasy, and science fiction into something greater than the sum of the individual components. The individual stories meld together, creating a sweeping, epic tale of a multiverse in jeopardy as a race of gods and their halfbreed offspring fight a battle of attrition on one world after another against an unstoppable, all-consuming enemy, The Bleed. We get to experience the disastrous consequences of two gods with conflicting goals in modern-day London as Jenny struggles to come to terms with her heritage. We join the members of a lunar colony as their settlement faces catastrophic collapse. The small handful of survivors learn that there are secrets on the moon no one could have expected. And finally, we follow Arridon and Thistle, two half-gods, as their world approaches a horrifying end at the hands of a monstrous force that seeks to devour everything living and dead in absolute domination. As the stories tie together at the end in the most unexpected ways, I couldn’t help but want to move immediately on to the second volume in the series. The narration provided by Scott Aiello for the audiobook edition is fantastic. He tackles the cast of characters and their various accents better than many audiobook narrators I’ve heard.
Volume One of Chuck’s Dinosaur Tinglers compiles three previously available stories; My Billionaire Triceratops Craves Gay Ass, Gay T-Rex Law Firm: Executive Boner, and Space Raptor Butt Invasion. If you’re unfamiliar with the brilliant Chuck Tingle and his plethora of tinglers, I’m not sure how you’re accessing this review from the space beneath the rock you’ve been living under for however long. In the first of these three tinglers, Jeremy receives a call out of the blue from Oliver, his former pet triceratops, now an exotic dancer who made billions from sports betting. An evening of expensive dinner instead becomes a gay, erotic encounter in Jeremy’s New York apartment. The second tale tells us of Donny’s first day at the T-Rex law firm, where he’d just gotten hired as a secretary. Seeking prestige and a better paycheck, Donny soon gets more than he signed up for as he learns just what sort of animals he’s working for when an indecent proposal crosses his desk. The final tale introduces us to Lance, an astronaut, just as he begins his solo, year-long mission on an alien planet undergoing terraforming to provide humans with a new home and salvation from a dying Earth. Little does he know that a velociraptor astronaut from Earth 2 is also on a similar mission. A friendship borne of mutual loneliness soon becomes a steamy affair, as Lance and Orion discover a new way to pass the time that has nothing to do with playing ping-pong. In true Tingle fashion, these three stories are short, sweet, and smutty. The erotic elements are graphic in detail and ridiculous in content, which is precisely what Dr. Chuck Tingle excels at bringing to the table. In his life’s mission of showing his readers and fans that love is real, he often goes to extremes that guarantee one will not soon forget the experience of joining him on a tingling journey.
This paperback edition was a Father’s Day present for me from my girlfriend in 2020. Additionally, I was gifted two more Tinglers in paperback at the same time. Only someone who knows me well would have considered these to be just the sort of things I would want in my library.