"Transgemination" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by BEAT to a PULP
Written by Glenn Gray
2017, 131 pages, Fiction
Released on August 8th, 2017
Sometimes you’re reading a book that takes an idea to the limit and then goes, “Ah, fuck it, let’s jump into the abyss!” When that happens, the narrative either fails horribly or it sprouts wings like some bizarre literary pterodactyl as it screeches its way into the land of You Have to Read This. In the case of Glenn Gray’s Transgemination, what starts as a weird sci-fi comedy with a touch of horror quickly morphs into a wild romp of a narrative that packs so much goo, humor, and weirdness, it pushes into must-read territory.
Karl and Stew are a couple of farm boys who stumble upon an extraterrestrial blob/goo/thing in their cornfield. While they try to figure out exactly what it is, the blob starts doing its thing and replicating the things it comes into contact with. Soon the calm world of farm and small-town living is violently shattered for them as chaos erupts, giant things threaten their safety, and things get so bad that their farm becomes the epicenter of national attention.
Coming in at a fast 131 pages, Transgemination is one of those rare horror sci-fi novellas that is its own thing while also being a reminder of how incredibly fun B-movies can be. As you read, it becomes obvious that Gray was having a blast at the keyboard, and having the same amount of fun as he did is inevitable. There are accents, action, monsters, guns, an old lady who might just be one of my favorite secondary characters in a very long time, and even a love story all packed into a fast-paced, very entertaining story.
I generally stay away from comparisons because they’re dangerous and might make readers feel like the book being reviewed is similar to others. With Transgemination, the mixture of authors and elements that came to mind made it impossible for me not to share them. Ready? Okay, imagine a literary version of The Blob written by Joe Lansdale while trying to show Michael Crichton how weird science is done right. Yeah, that’s exactly what you’ll get here, except it’s all Gray and his sharp prose and humor are unique.
The best thing about this book is that Gray took an idea, pushed it to the limit, and then kept going. When the craziness gets to be too much, he drops some science. When the humor has been around for a couple of pages, he balances it out with a touch of romance. When tension is high, something hilarious goes down. When there’s dialogue that makes it almost seem like a normal novel, it’s quickly followed by a flying monstrosity, a tiny man in a test tube, or a bunch of replicated space people/things who look like one of the protagonists having a bit of a pool party. In other words, this is balanced weirdness that offers something for everyone, and that shows what kind of writer Gray is.
One of my favorite things is when a book from an indie press I know surprises me, and this one did just that. BEAT to a PULP publishes some great books, but I wasn’t expecting this one. This is a short, very enjoyable sci-fi novella that pushes up against bizarro fiction unapologetically while reminding us that camp can be an amazing thing when done right. Oh, and it has a cinematic quality to it that makes it impossible not to think of it a something that deserves to be turned into a movie as soon as possible so it can join the ranks of our favorite B-movies.