"We Live Inside You" Book Review
Written by Jeremy Robert Johnson
2011, 188 pages, Fiction
Released on October 17th, 2011
You know what a reviewer's worst nightmare is? Coming across a book that makes him doubt his reviewing skills. Jeremy Robert Johnson's We Live Inside You is one of those dreaded books. While reading it, my confidence in being able to write a review that would do it justice dwindled in direct proportion to the number of pages I read. Yes, I could say the collection is pretty unique, that the author's voice is original and eloquent or that the book is a genre-bending mix of stories akin to a literary blitzkrieg. However, none of that would be enough.
We Live Inside You kicks off with "The Oarsman", a short tale about the end of times coming from the throats of chanting monks. If you've read Johnson before, it feels like a welcoming hug. If you're new to his fiction, it has the perfect mix of strangeness and good writing that will make you quickly turn the page to see what else this guy has to offer.
The second tale, "When Susurrus Stirs", keeps things rolling with a narrative that's part journal and part physical horror. It lets you know that there is plenty of horror ahead.
The third story, titled "Persistence Hunting", is superb. In fact, it was the first story that made me fear writing this review. The narrative is a second person crime story that blends love, loneliness, adrenaline, desire, and violence. It's also one of the best noir stories you'll ever read. The story appears twice in the collection. The second version, which appears at the end of the book in a section titled The Parasite: B-Sides and Rarities, is a little longer than the first and somehow manages to be even better than the first one.
Congratulations, you are three stories into a collection that contains 19 of them and you're already hooked. Instead of trying to convey all the goodness in there, I'll just give you some highlights.
- "The Witness at Dawn" packs an incredible amount of sadness and creepiness into a very short story. No way to go wrong with the cry of a dead child in the night.
- "Trigger Variation" is very violent on both a physical and psychological level and puts a new and very dark spin on patricide.
- "A Flood of Harriers" puts the reader in such an anxious state that I have to suggest people with cardiac conditions to stay away from this one. At once terribly real and giving glimpses of an entirely different realm, this tale will stay with the reader long after the last page.
- "Cathedral Mother" is a pitch-perfect sci-fi/horror mix that builds with an almost palpable crescendo and ends with something akin to the opening of the world's most dangerous door.
- "States of Glass" is as cerebral as anything else in the collection but brings denial, humanity, loss, pain, and sex to the forefront.
- "The Mars Volta's Descent Into Bedlam: A Rhapsody in Three Parts" is a piece the author wrote to accompany the release of the band's album Bedlam in Goliath. It's wildly entertaining and can be enjoyed equally by fans of the band and those that have never heard of it. It works as an introduction to the album, released in 2008. However, it's also a scary chronicle, a celebration of the band, and a look at how the album came to be. As a fan of their music, I couldn't help listening to the album as I read it. I suggest you do the same, or at least listen to the album immediately after reading the piece. With the knowledge that comes from reading this, many of the lines sung by Cedric Bixler-Zavala will strike you as sinister.
Jeremy Robert Johnson is a very talented author, a freak, a perfectionist. Unlike many authors who keep their work coming regularly, Johnson puts out a book and then goes back to that mad world he inhabits. This means that We Live Inside You could be the one thing we get from him in a while. Pick up a copy today and fear not: probably the scariest thing about it is how ridiculously talented Johnson is.