"Static/Orgone" Book Review
Written by Shane Douglas Keene
Published by Bizarro Pulp Press
Written by Jamie Grefe
2016, 134 pages, Fiction
Released on October 1st, 2016
2016 saw a lot of great horror and other forms of dark fiction hit the indie scene with fantastic work being released by outstanding publishers like Word Horde, Grey Matter Press, and Dark Regions, just to name a few. Some of the best veterans in the business gave us exemplary entries in the lexicon of terror, including Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, and Brian Evenson, but we also had a huge helping of brand new fiction from several rising stars, with incredible collections from Paul Michael Anderson and Michael Wehunt, and novels from Stephanie M. Wytovich and J. Lincoln Fenn, both of whose books, in my very subjective opinion, were among the top fifteen reads of the year. But in the veritable jungle of superb indie publishers out there, Journalstone/Bizarro Pulp Press stood out for sheer proliferation and meticulous quality, with Barron's Man With No Name and Swift to Chase, Philip Fracassi's Fragile Dreams, and the sublimely poetic Elusive Plato by Rhys Hughes among the standouts, though not the only ones by any means, especially not when you toss Jamie Grefe's phenomenal and markedly unique double novella Static/Orgone into the mix.
When Vincenzo Bilof, who knows something of my tastes, presented me with Jamie Grefe's new book he told me if I like poetic prose I'd love Static/Orgone. Of course, I certainly do love that sort of writing so I approached the book with some measure of both anticipation and slight skepticism. I trust Vincenzo, but I've heard that description used hyperbolically so many times that it's hard to take it without at least a small grain of salt. But Bilof is a straight shooter and I can say with confidence that he was spot on with this book. So let me tell you just a small amount about the two stories here and then I'll get on with what I'm so obviously leading up to here.
Lately Journalstone and Bizarro Pulp Press have published book after book that have forced me to read them either until I finished or I became so bleary eyed sleepy that I couldn't continue any further. And they've continued that habit in typical fashion with Static, a somewhat twisted, surreal, and sadistic tale of a man, Lek, searching for the woman he loves in a desert-mansion orgy. Complexity is Jamie Grefe's stock-in-trade and this first novella in the duo is a prime example of that fact. Taking place in the aforementioned mansion, seedy motel rooms, and the office where Lek and Alina work, it's an intensely erotic, viscerally sensual mashup of body horror and bizarro unlike anything I've read before.
While both stories in this book are phenomenal, Orgone is the sparkling gem of the two, bringing us a darkly tragic tale of a post-apocalyptic world in which Golo, a performance artist and shaman, seeks the power of orgone energy to find vengeance on the person or persons who murdered the woman he loves. A magical celebration of language and violence, it's an intensely visceral, deeply emotional story that's as haunting as it is mesmerizing and it's a story you should block out some time for. It's hard to put down and next to impossible to stop thinking about it if you do have to walk away for any amount of time, and it's a story that's likely to hang in your mind for quite a while when it's over.
That's all I'm going to give you as far as synopses go. As I've said in past reviews, short work is difficult to describe without spoiling it and that's something I refuse to do so I'll leave the wonders of these two stories for readers to discover for themselves. What I want to do now is to tell you what I think is the most important, uber special aspect of this book.
We've all read, and in some cases written, reviews where the reviewer calls the language lyrical, and in most cases it's easy to see that it's at least partly used to fluff the word count without any real substance or meaning. But in the case of Static and Orgone, it's the absolute truth, and that's not to say that it's like poetry. It is by every definition of the word a fictive work of pure poesy. Bizarro Pulp Press editor Vincenzo Bilof called Grefe's work "image-language, heavy and rhythmic," and I couldn't say it better than that. Jamie's words flow like the notes of an epic concerto, pulling you in with the assured alacrity of a master conductor, his cadence and pacing sexy, lyrical and hyper-visual:
But Lek cannot be sure she says what she says and if what she says is true, for his heart is not an organ that beats, it is a mangled organ in the church of a dead man. And the pain that throbs from the inside of his bloody skull cracks from the inside in an explosion of blood. And the explosion is a headlight under desert stars.
That passage above is just the tip of the brilliant iceberg that represents Jamie Grefe's brand of fiction. The whole damn book is one big quotable quote and it's next to impossible to choose what to share and what not to share. Grefe is an extraordinary wordsmith, his prose haunting, enchanting, and seductive, and Static/Orgone is one of the most remarkable works of fiction I've read in a long time when it comes to masterful use of the English language. If you are a fan of gorgeous words and lyrical descriptions that paint vivid technicolor pictures on the canvas of your brain, you won't want to miss this stunning double novella from the beautifully twisted mind of Jamie Grefe.