"Whargoul" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Deadite Press
Written by Dave Brockie
2010, 235 pages, Bizarro Fiction
Released on December 4th, 2010
If Thomas Pynchon and Clive Barker decide to join forces and take a crack at writing a horror novel with a bizarro slant, the result would probably be something as poetic and eloquent as Whargoul, David Brockie's first novel. Brockie, the twisted mind behind cult band GWAR, decided to start his writing career with a bang and penned down an epic story of war, death, sex, blood, transmogrification, booze and a lot of violence. From the blood-soaked Battle of Stalingrad and the death camps of the holocaust to the more recent war in Iraq and even a fictional race war in New York City, Whargoul has been there, bringing death wherever he goes and feeding off the souls and brains of the those left in his wake.
The story is hard to condense because it sprawls across the history of mankind, lacks a conventional chronology of events and zigzags through times and places in no particular order. When Whargoul, a bloodthirsty narrator with a penchant for philosophizing about the nature of humanity, begins to tell a story, the reader might have an idea about where the narration is going, but memories often come and take the story forward, backward or sideways in a maelstrom of violence. If it all sounds a tad confusing, it's because it probably is.
The book shines because of two things: the narrator's insights and Brockie's prose. Whargoul is indestructible, but he can feel pain. As the story progresses, he learns to love, to cry and to understand his own nature. If you're in the mood for a challenge, try keeping up with the self-analyses of an immortal beast of war that constantly yearns for "the banshee song of the rocket, the sweet stink of rotting flesh wafting across the battlefield, and the grinding of the metal claw as it sought purchase in living meat" and yet is incapable of harming his dog. As for the prose, the fact that the book was able to keep my attention after the first 200 pages of battle descriptions and mutilation recounts is a testament of how entertaining Brockie's poetic prose can be.
Bizarro fans will get something out of the book based on the quality of the gore, the inventiveness of the monstrous transformations the narrator goes through and the few brilliant scenes where war is not raging and Whargoul is in a bar or a whorehouse in some city and talk about what's around him. Readers will also enjoy the fact that the narrator is a monster, a white man, a black man and a woman in the same book, all while retaining the same brutal characteristics and his passion for drugs, sex and violence.
Although there are many good things about Whargoul, there are a few things readers should know so that they won't come as a surprise. First, the book is considerably longer than the majority of titles that Deadite Press puts out. Weighting in at a hefty 235 pages, the book is not a light read and its combination of poetic prose and long descriptions might not be for everyone. For fans of war, weapons and gore, the book will be a treat; for those that expect more horror and might tire easily of the war setting, the book might get a tad old after the first 100 pages. Also, even Ernest Hemingway would've had a hard time keeping descriptions of war fresh after a dozen, which means that Brockie repeats himself a few times. That being said, two brilliant moments — the first a critique of professional football and the second a short study of how New York City is basically a giant structure full of human feces — make Whargoul a read worth checking out.