Saturday, April 23, 2011
by Richard Thomas
Published by Otherworld Publications LLC (April 1, 2010)
As the thriving business at Permuted press can attest, apocalyptic fiction is always in vogue. Every generation seems to feel that population growth, advances in weaponry, pollution and other ills have gotten as bad as they possibly can, leaving no option but the end of it all. Yet we're still here. That's why I'm much more fascinated with stories about the days after and end that was quite, focusing on the need to survive and, more importantly, rebuild.
That places us squarely into the world of Richard Thomas' Transubstantiate where we follow seven physically and psychologically damaged characters in the aftermath of a population control experiment gone awry. With 97% of the population dead and much of the remainder turned to violent and insane blisterheads, a small island community holds the only chance of rebirth. But, as this society also begins to collapse, a question must be asked: is the island more of a prison than a new Eden?
The first paragraph had my brains by the balls (yep, I'm so manly even my brain has balls). Lyric and enigmatic, it set the tone for the strain between the inevitability of nihilism and the possibility of hope. Then Mr. Thomas immediately proceeded to slam both brains and balls against the nearest wall by tossing me directly into a situation that had already gone to hell with no explanation whatsoever. To further cement my confusion, he presents the story in first person, from each of the seven main characters' points of view, and not always in chronological order. This Rashomon-ish experience is akin to being given the pieces of a puzzle and the places they fit but having to wait until you've got it all together before you get to see the big picture. Or you can think of it as a mystery where the mystery itself is revealed slowly through the process of the solving.
Either way, it messed with me. And I enjoyed every second of it.
Transubstantiate, when all the pieces fall into place, is an intricate and layered look at action and consequence, the struggle between mislaid control and frustrated effort of self-proclaimed gods of men and the people caught up in the maelstrom, told in a way that will make your head spin. Occasionally, it looses focus and keeping track of the characters and motivations can be a bit frustrating at times, not to mention the large amount of simple typos that overrun the printing, but I found the whole to be well worth the extra effort and vastly rewarding. If only they had done better than the uninspired and rather dull cover art.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.