"Snake Jaw" Book Review
Written and illustrated by Andrew Gallacher
2010, 88 pages, Fiction
Released on October 13th, 2010
As dark and slimy as a tar pit and as fast and gory as flipping the garbage disposal switch without removing the hand inside. I'm talking about Andrew Gallacher's Snake Jaw, a short novel that packs a punch equivalent to getting hit in the face with a pillowcase full of Ken Follet tomes. Okay, enough comparisons. Let's get to the review.
In Snake Jaw, a woman named Vanessa disappears. Already off to a bad start, things deteriorate even further the moment Detective Gill gets on the case. The missing woman was a junkie and had a baby that's also gone. It seems like a normal case, but when another missing girl is found dead with a small, semi-digested dog stuck halfway down her surgically enlarged throat, the detective realizes Vanessa's disappearance might be part of something bigger and much more sinister. And he's right. Vanessa is in the hands of surgeon Gerald Phalanx, a madman with a penchant for extreme body modification. For him, nature made some mistakes that need to be corrected with surgery in order to achieve feminine perfection. Gigantic breasts, ridiculously plump labia and dislocating jaws are only part of his plan to make women perfect. While Gill tries to find her, Vanessa begins to undergo a monstrous transformation. With each passing minute, salvation becomes more of an impossibility and horrible endings are brewing that no one can possibly see coming.
Snake Jaw is the kind of smart, visceral story that all mediocre body/surgical/gory/wake-up-tied-to-a-gurney horror books and films aspire to. Gallacher knew what he wanted to achieve, and he pulled it off in a very condensed story that doesn't contain a single word that could be considered filler. The action comes at you fast, the repulsive acts are flawlessly explained and Phalanx is one of the few characters in fiction that would make Josef Mengele gasp.
If you scratch the surface, there is a critique of the male gaze in Snake Jaw that would make any feminist proud, one so sharp any feminist will enjoy. However, don't think for a second that the author was trying to surreptitiously sneak anything in there: everything in this book is delivered with an honest, direct prose. That straightforwardness makes the already dark narrative more powerful and puts the scientific experiments, sexual atrocities and characters' feelings in must-read territory.
Besides the story, Snake Jaw also contains 14 drawings by the author. Looking at the cover, which is one of the art pieces in the book, might give you an idea of what's inside. Considering the story, it makes sense that the art is wonderfully creepy and grotesque. In a way, it almost helps the reader envision what's being described.
Sadly, Snake Jaw isn't perfect. Its length is enough to tell the story, but it will leave wanting much, much more. While we wait for a new book from Andrew Gallacher, I suggest you pick this nasty little gem up today. You will spend less than what you did on The Human Centipede, and you will be doubly impressed.
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