Judith Sonnet takes a hammer and chisel to our sensibilities and good taste with her collection, Something Akin To Revulsion: Six Extreme Short Stories. There is nothing safe, nothing sacrosanct, and nothing off-limits within these pages–and that’s how it should be. It was my pleasure to be one of the first to experience LOLCOW, the story that starts this particular collection. Judith’s rendition of this grotesque and graphic tale was the winning performance of the 2022 KillerCon Gross-Out Contest, and with good reason. Plumbing the depths of the internet for hilarious, perverse, and captivating content might provide more stimulation than one is prepared to experience. But like the narrator of LOLCOW, we can’t help ourselves as we return to the trough. Liquid Sick suitably tackles the TERF epidemic, showcasing for readers that those people spend too much time spewing excrement and too little time on empathy. Judith’s own trans experience influences and informs this narrative, and she does an excellent job of providing both amusement and poignant social commentary. Also, apropos of nothing…fecal emesis has always fascinated me. Sonnet’s next story, Rehearsal, provides a grim and unrelenting glimpse into the hours before a school shooting transpires. Kids who did nothing wrong find themselves prey to the whims of cruel and maladjusted classmates with pizza cutters to grind. Body-Crunch takes us to the dimly lit, poorly constructed ring of a backyard wrestling match that goes horrifically wrong. It’s not every day one almost feels bad for a pedophile, but it’s hard not to feel some faint stirring of sympathy as everything comes crashing down–and spilling out. In Coke-Nail, a group of bored, slacker teenagers decide they know where they might be able to score some cocaine. The deal doesn’t work out as planned, but one of them still manages to reach a state sort of like snowblindness. Finally, we have Something Akin To Revulsion, wherein some truly awful preadolescent girls decide they’re going to play a prank on the dumpy, less popular girl in their class. The conclusion might have you in stitches, though, so it’s worth sitting through the horror. Sonnet’s collection is as gripping as it is bleak and nihilistic, and it’s got those traits in spades. Her story notes clarify the inspiration and motivation behind each of the inclusions, and it’s always a pleasure to spend a little time getting to know the author after finishing something that’s hollowed you out like this collection is sure to do.
In Cerberus Exploitation: A Grindhouse Triple Feature, Patrick C. Harrison III, Mike Ennenbach, and Chris Miller nail the storytelling aesthetic of grindhouse exploitation cinema with a Troma flair. It’s particularly appropriate that I mention Troma since this book begins with an introduction provided by none other than Lloyd Kaufman. Like proper triple-feature experiences, the book contains trailers, film credits (with dream casting choices from the authors), and everything a fan could hope for…aside from the popcorn. Electro-Satan Comes To Wolfe City introduces us to a group of kids hoping to enjoy a summer camping trip, only to have everything disrupted by mutant hillbillies. Ennenbach’s contribution to this collection gets the reader/listener’s attention almost immediately with a musical performance that should have anyone in stitches. From there, it’s a barrage of violence, humor, and all the splattery goodness fans of the genre adore. Patrick C Harrison III then hits us with his twisted take on the women in prison genre with Vampire Nuns Behind Bars. Replete with lesbianism, sadism/torture, scientific experimentation, rebel uprisings/prison riots, and–of course–vampires. Terrible things are taking place at this women’s prison, where political dissidents and troublemakers–and a handful of nuns–are swept under the rug and channeled into one of two secret chambers where horrors await. When a prison break’s attempted, the balancing act that kept the facility functional gets disrupted hugely, and the halls and cell blocks become a slaughterhouse. And finally, we arrive at Chris Miller’s Sons of Thunder, focused on a military recovery mission in the dystopian Hellscape outside of the “safely” bubbled cities owned and operated by corporations. Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13 come together, producing a malformed and grim, action-packed adventure. Mutants, terrorists, and doomsday cultists stand in the way of an elite team and one man bent on revenge at any cost. There’s no point in trying to describe the escapades these authors have assembled. It’s something one just has to experience for themself…and I recommend doing so as soon as possible. Daniel Caravetta’s narration is spot-on, capturing the lunacy and low-budget mayhem of grindhouse cinema in a way only a fan of the films could manage.
When I first heard about Beyond Reform, and the authors involved in the book, I knew it was something I had to read. This need became more pronounced when Brian Keene announced the nominees for the Splatterpunk Awards at KillerCon Austin 2022. As a nominee myself, in the same category, I felt a compulsion to dive into the nominated works from my competitors/colleagues/friends. They’re not mutually exclusive categorizations. Upon reading Beyond Reform, I felt confident that it would be the title that blew the rest of us out of the water. As it turns out, I was correct, and I was waiting to post this review until after I’d confirmed my assessment. Beauregard, Athan, and Bark capture the theme of Beyond Reform in essentially every conceivable sense. The stories are grim, fatalistic, captivating, sometimes amusing, and often horrifying in their portrayal of the worst aspects of human nature. Aron Beauregard kicks it all off with the title story, Beyond Reform. Hoping to score some quick cash and have some fun along the way, Marcus finds himself the focus of a couple’s revenge. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, Marcus has made enemies of more than just the two of them, and even the best-laid plans fall apart sometimes. Beauregard pulls no punches and dares the reader to flinch as he ups the ante with each new roll of the dice. Midnight Glory by Jasper Bark introduces us to a dysfunctional couple with a seemingly unlimited capacity to hurt one another and a similar capacity to sustain the damage. The source of this seemingly supernatural horror is rooted in a gift that turned out to be a bit more than bargained for and a punishment a long time coming. Bark’s grotesque and graphic sexual imagery was almost gag-inducing, and that’s something to be proud of. Jon Athan hits us next with Tortured Until Proven Innocent, a tale of a vile sexual predator who appears to be getting his comeuppance at the hands of distraught parents. In Athan’s work, as in real life, the stories don’t always have a happy ending, and he doesn’t shy away from hammering that point home with painful clarity. The Martini Club is Beauregard’s second addition to the collection, and its focus on desperate, lonely women obsessed with rehabilitation and sexual fantasies oriented around a convicted serial killer is a thriller, for sure. As it turns out, not all of the women in The Martini Club have the same sort of fantasies in mind when they finally have the object of their obsessions at hand. Athan’s Dead But Alive introduces us to a funeral director with a dark and perverse secret that knows no limits, just as the man knows no shame. The disgusting, depraved, and uncompromising delivery from Athan only makes the conclusion to the tale all the more satisfying. And finally, Jasper Bark concludes the volume with A Most Chemical Wedding, the most unique of the tales included in Beyond Reform. While it is indeed a tale of revenge like much of what came before it, it’s one with numerous twists and wry humor in the mix. Spirituality, alchemy, and a voice that breaks the fourth wall with obvious pleasure make Bark’s second inclusion a fun and fascinating way to wrap everything up. As you can probably tell, I’m quite a fan of this title. I’ve heard it said there’s no shame in losing to the best, and the three authors involved in this project showcased why they are some of the best at what they do.
The Professor has previously deconstructed, distilled, and devastated classic literary prose with his magnificent and monstrous homages to some of the great writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This time he’s set his sights on something far more primal…a well-loved fixture of North American cryptozoology…Bigfoot. Two campers amid passionate playtime in their tent are interrupted by a startling roar that incapacitates them in preparation for the monster coming their way. Cruel and sadistic, the creature takes pleasure in torturing his prey as he builds up to a climax of cyclopean proportions, and The Professor keeps us right there, in the center of the action without relenting or taking any more pity than the beast itself does with its prey. Envisioning the sasquatch as a carnal clamoring colossus, The Professor joins the ranks of those–like Lucas Milliron–who transform the beast from the friendly, secretive forest dweller of Harry and the Hendersons into a vile, sexually aggressive predator. A cautionary tale about the risks associated with camping, and especially against having sex while doing so, Spunk of the Sasquatch paints a revolting portrait of the elusive beast. By the time his rumbling roar is resonating within your bones, it’s already too late. Just remember, all he wants is a little head. Naturally, The Professor includes an audio edition of this thrilling tale. I recommend settling in as the man himself caresses your ears with the vile and visceral details conveyed through his voice.
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Mumma confirms for readers that the Smalls brothers came by their nature honestly; whether nature or nurture was the primary factor in their development, Mumma was sure to be a massive influence. It would be a challenge not to become a hard man with a matriarch like this at the head of the family. We’re introduced to Mumma as she’s performing to the best of her ability–with a less-than-optimum partner–for a pornographic movie. It seems like it might be a boring day for her until it turns out that a friend of Peter’s has gotten her son involved in a predicament with one of Mumma’s peers in the criminal underworld. Unfortunately, sorting everything out with the pimp in question isn’t going to be a smooth and painless process. One should expect nothing less when the Smalls family is involved. Ericmore never fails to satisfy, and that’s especially true where the Smalls are concerned. From weaponized sex toys to feats of athleticism one wouldn’t expect from an older lady, the excitement doesn’t falter.
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Kherson is as poignant as it is painful to read, and it is a distressingly raw narrative. Regina Watts pulls no punches and provides the reader with no reprieve. The depths of human cruelty and depravity are on grim display without any consideration for the reader because that’s the point. One Ukrainian woman’s search for food in a devastated city becomes a nightmare as a group of Russian soldiers decide that only Nazis would oppose them–and where Nazis are concerned, all bets are off. Much like with her previous story, Cleared Away, Watts is showcasing the horrors of war that often get overlooked as body counts and large-scale atrocities steal our attention from the individual cruelties. Cultures around the world already victimize women under normal circumstances, but in war, anything goes. The horrors in this story are all too common wherever there is war. If you think it’s something distant and perpetrated only by monsters from foreign lands, you’re missing a whole lot of what American forces did during World War II and Vietnam. Monstrous acts happen when people convince themselves that they’re the “good guys” no matter what they do. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are people who will eagerly place themselves in positions to be the “good guys” in situations like these. What’s happening in this story isn’t unique to Ukraine, but it’s happening now, and that immediacy means we can do something about it. Regina Watts has graciously provided us with an opportunity to help, and buying a copy of Kherson–even if you don’t read it–will guarantee that money gets to outreach for the victims of the conflict.
The Filthy Marauders are heading down to Delacroix for fun and debauchery. They’re looking for the sort of antics the filthiest and most depraved motorcycle club in existence would be seeking out because that’s precisely what The Filthy Marauders are. As Spunk leads the rest of his crew down the highway, he’s excited about the annual Hilljack Games in Durr City, but when they arrive, the city is unnervingly empty and silent. Something is off, but nothing could prepare them for their run-in with The Cunty Scoundrels or the discovery that they’d attended the Hilljack Games the year before. Not only had they been too wasted to remember it, but they hadn’t made any friends in the process. The Hilljack Games aren’t in the cards for Spunk and the other Filthy Marauders this year. On this trip to Delacroix, they’ll need to survive The Dirty Rooster Fuck-Off! Easy Rider meets Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas as Bob Freville takes his readers on a ride they’ll never forget. Prepare for absurdity, violence that approaches the cartoonishly pornographic, and the most thrillingly horrific set of challenges ever met by man or beast. Delacroix County is Freville’s answer to Burroughs’ Interzone, a place where anything can happen, and one never knows who to trust…or what they might be ingesting. The two additional stories Freville includes are no less perverse than our main course, though unrelated to the trials and tribulations of The Filthy Marauders. Stuffing tells us the story of the most dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner. As Cooter and Nana find that revenge is a dish best served hot and sloppy, the orphanage will never be the same again. Of course, The Pink Sock probably needs little introduction. Savannah lives in a world where everyone aspires to be the biggest slut, but she can’t bring herself to tolerate a certain fluid. All seems hopeless until Savannah discovers a hidden talent.
When the National Health Service rejects a trans femme her request to have a vaginoplasty performed, Daphne’s state of mind takes one hell of a hit. Already prone to self-harm and taking her frustrations out on herself, this blow might be the last straw. But what happens if the offending penis doesn’t want to go without a fight? What follows is both heartbreaking and ridiculously gruesome, as one might expect from the pairing of Simon McHardy and Sean Hawker. In true McHardy and Hawker fashion, these two provide a graphic and absurdly over-the-top argument in favor of gender reassignment surgeries being more readily available to those suffering from gender dysphoria. Of course, this is not for the squeamish. As strange as it might seem, I almost think this should be recommended to anyone with transgender friends or family, or those hoping to understand why it’s important to treat transgender health concerns (both mental and physiological) as seriously as any others.
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The folktale of Bluebeard is a particularly awful and gruesome one–as many such tales happen to be–but in The Professor’s capable hands, the story gets molded into something of exceptional and sublime perversity. Gone is the greed and duplicity of the new wife, replaced with lust and a single-minded desire for the titular husband. Knowing that this is a retelling by The Professor should be sufficient to warn you that this does not arrive at the expected conclusion for those familiar with earlier iterations of the Bluebeard story. There are no antiquated morals associated with woman’s obedience to men in this adaptation. At the same time, there’s none of the Pandoran punishment for a woman’s curiosity at the root of this story. Instead, The Professor deftly casts aside that old world, parochial mentality and empowers the woman by allowing her to embrace the cruel sensuality of her discovery and subsequent abuse. Naturally, you would benefit from listening to the narration of this title as provided by your purchase on Godless. The soothing, hypnotic cadence of The Professor’s relation of Bluebeard perhaps provides us some insight into why the new wife experienced such a sudden change of heart in her abrupt dedication to Bluebeard as a courter and husband. Was she caught in some spell? Are we tangled up in a similar sort of magic when listening to The Professor’s voice? Do we care?
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Todd Love continues raising the stakes with the third installment of the Platinum Blondes series. Love Removal Machine picks up where INXS left off, treating readers to deliciously deserved punishment and violence enacted against Troy. But something more is going on, faint glimpses of unnatural activity from the chair upon which Troy is bound are blurred with the frantic vengeance unleashed by the women of the Platinum Blondes Agency. Dark secrets have been kept from most of the women Gwen’s recruited, sinister mysteries that originate in her youth and the hubris of her father. Todd drags us through this sordid history, unveiling surprise after shocking surprise along the way, hitting the reader over and over again with the brutal pacing of a professional fighter. In the world of the Platinum Blondes, no one and nothing is as it seems. Todd Love adds new questions as quickly as he answers the ones we already had, but there’s no need to worry…the story isn’t over yet.
You can obtain the Platinum Blondes series for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below: