"Schadenfreude" Book Review
Written by Chris Kelso
2012, 154 pages, Fiction
Released on October 1st, 2012
When a writer has fun with his craft, the result is usually something that communicates that joy to the reader. In the case of Chris Kelso's Schadenfreude, a collection of short fiction that ranges from horror to bizarro and everything in between, the enjoyment comes quickly and the stories explore strange places in a way that stays with you after the last page has been turned.
Schandefreude starts off with The Year of the Cockroach, a noir tale that includes time traveling and the end of the world. While these elements are enough to keep readers entertained, the tale is really a character study in which many people will find themselves mirrored.
Things keep rolling in the right direction with Barjo and his All-American Drugs, a story that brings together an entertaining drug dealer, Santa Claus, Jesus Christ and a revived John F. Kennedy with flappy skull parts. The strange cast of characters is joined by a need for Barjo's drug, which causes different effects in each user.
The third story in the collection, Gene Resurrected, is about a man that manages to die, get what he wants most in life, and then somehow die again. A must-read for those that enjoy their fiction with a touch of gore and a dash of surrealism.
Some other highlights in the 17-story collection include:
- Naked Punch. William S. Burroughs gets a unique homage in this story that names some of the places that appeared in his work. Just like Burroughs' own tales, this one is powerful, weird and a tad scatological.
- Gramps vs. the Female of the Species. A narrative full of echoes of Edward Lee's sci-fi tinted short stories, this one is a classic monster horror story with a humorous end.
- Wire and Spittle. The longest piece in the book, this one reads more like a novella. On the brink of the end of the world, a group of punks are forced to think about life, their relationship to one another and their most dangerous enemy: a cop with a taste for blood. Kelso constructs a bleak, dangerous world and fills it with enough music, anger and violence to make any punk happy. As a bonus, the author fully takes advantage of his talent for creating band and song names.
- Sonambulist-Southside. A man who used to be an actor finds himself trying to avert the gaze of others while living in hell.
- My Dad the Carpenter. Full of sex, violence and the horror that comes from a talking wooden doll, this narrative reads like an exploration of madness in the context of a dysfunctional family.
Kelso's writing avoids repetition and each unique story in Schadenfreude comes at you from previously unthought-of angles, making the reading a constant adventure where you really have no idea what the next page might bring your way. The fact that many of the stories collected in the book have been previously published in magazines further attests to the author's talent. If you want fiction that's nestled in the weird place where horror, science fiction and bizarro meet, give this collection a try.