"White City" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Bizarro Pulp Press
Written by Seb Doubinsky
2015, 156 pages, Fiction
Released on January 31st, 2015
The best thing an author can do after entertaining you is leaving you wanting more. Seb Doubinsky does both in White City, a horror narrative that brings to the table superb pace, a historic/political angle that’s rarely seen in horror, and a bizarrely oppressive atmosphere that is at once uncomfortable to inhabit and slightly addictive.
White City is what they call the rich district of the Nordic Alliance capital, Viborg City. The people who live in less affluent parts want to live there, but the place is as exciting as retirement community for rich people. But then something happens: the brother of a powerful heiress is murdered. The brutal act sends detective Sigrid Wulff, up-and-coming and very ambitious local journalist Leila Bogossian, and best-selling horror writer Lee Jones Jr. down a dangerous road in which history, corruption, murder, politics, and dangerous family secrets collide.
More than horror, a thriller or a bizarro novella, White City is an unclassifiable hybrid that possesses a DNA full of science fiction, noir, and the kind of smart socio-political commentary that is usually hard to find, especially in shorter narratives. Doubinsky tells the story from the perspectives of each of his main characters, but he also adds poetry and something he titles Theories of Power. Instead of distracting from the main narrative, these additions offer readers a break from the frenetic pace and a chance to enjoy the author in a more playful/philosophical mood. Take, for example, Theory of Power #4:
Everything is fragile. Everything can break. Even the heaviest hammer can break. But its strength lies in its ignorance of its own fragility.
White City is packed with unique characters in a city that, while entirely fictional, could very well be real. Likewise, the author deals with one of the nastiest figures in history (I won’t give that away here) and seamlessly weaves it into a narrative that is as much of a mystery as it is a commentary on xenophobia and institutionalized racism.
Bizarro Pulp Press started out publishing straight bizarro and then moved on to explore new ground with novellas that were impossible to put in any one box and that had one foot in the realm of experimental fiction. White City is a great addition to their catalog and serves as a short, powerful introduction to Doubinsky’s work. If you are not familiar with his name, this is the perfect place to start, and you should do it immediately.