Hello everyone, how is it going? Before I start the review, I have to give a quick update about one of the previous reviews. Unfortunately the good people at YouTube/Google have removed the Empress Theresa video review, claiming that I broke their community guidelines although they never told me what I did to do so (My guess is that Norman Boutin saw the video and flagged it, claiming I was either: A. breaking a copyright or B. Using Offensive language). But the good news is, I have made an appeal and after a few days, the video is back online. In the worst case scenario that it gets taken down again, I have also loaded it to Vimeo. Sorry if there was any inconvenience.
Today’s review is another book from Chizine Publications (They do release some good work.); Tony Burgess’s The N-Body Problem. I have to give the reader(s) a warning, this book has a lot of graphic content and by graphic, it makes the Saw series look like My Little Pony Friendship is Magic *Though there is actually Saw/My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fan art out there*. So, if you are uncomfortable with this kind of material, please click out of the review and check something else out on the website.
About the Author
Tony Burgess who currently makes his living as a Canadian author and screenwriter, is not a stranger to the obscure and graphic writing that most people would avoid. His previous works would include The Pontypool Trilogy, Ravenna Gets, and Fiction for Lovers: A Small Bouquet of Flesh, Fear, Larvae, and Love.
The setting; Earth in the near future as it tries to deal with the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. After several attempts to resolve the body removal problem with tactics such as mass cremation (stopped because it reminded people of the holocaust) and mass graves (creating moving mounds of earth), a company known as WasteCorp comes up with the perfect solution; launch the dead into space, allowing them to float among the stars for eternity (How they market it as well). However, this has created a large problem where the undead have encased the earth in an interweaving mesh of undead bodies that blocks out the sun, slowly destroying not only the earth, but the bodies and minds of the people. Suicide cults have arisen, seeing as their salvation is to join the dead in space. WasteCorp employs the use of people called ‘Sellers’ who go from town to town to convince the people living there to not only sign up for WasteCorp’s services, but to commit mass suicide as well.
The story would follow an unnamed narrator as he tries to track down a Seller who goes by the name of Glenn Dixon, who is the embodiment of psychopathy and sadism. As he tries to track him down and kill him, he delves into surrealist Hell that will change who he is both physically and mentally.
There are a few things that I have to say I enjoy about the story. The first being that although there are zombies in this novel, they are neither the largest component of the story nor are they flesh eating monsters. In fact, in the story, they are actually harmless creatures that just wander around aimlessly. Another thing that I find myself enjoying is the concept itself where most stories would follow what would happen during the ‘zombie apocalypse’, the book follows what happens afterwards. It actually provides a nice change of pace that sets it apart from the rest of the story much like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, where it was focused more on Neo-Tokyo after the events of World War 3 instead of the war itself.
The problems that I would have with the story though could be considered to be large in certain perspectives. One of the largest would be how the main character deals with his illness and what it eventually surmounts to. Despite him taking several vitamins and natural supplements to keep his immune system up, he suffers from what he interprets as not just a stroke, but cancer as well to the point where he has to have a young man named X (later named Y) perform a back alley surgery on him. This raises questions to how he is able to continue forcing himself forward in his hunt for Dixon. Power of will, I guess.
The Writing Style
The best way to describe Tony Burgess’ writing style would be an overt hybristophilia splashed with lucid surrealist ideals with a large helping of psychosis thrown in to create a literary concoction that would drive most traditional or vanilla readers away. Imagine if someone decided to take the best ideas from Caligula, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, The Human Centipede, and A Serbian Film and turn it into a novel. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy a little of the hyper violence from time to time, but the lengths that Tony Burgess goes to in this novel is far from tame even by horror standards. Many would consider this book to follow the genre of Splatterpunk, where the focus of the horror would be based on the graphic and gory violence rather than building suspense. One example would be the narrator watching the towns people dismembering themselves as they prepared to die.
But I will admit that the author’s style of writing creates a sense of surrealism as you question what the main character is going through and ask whether or not he is actually dying. There are several different twists and turns that the reader does not see coming, which leaves them guessing what will come next. While the ending would fall on a more or less bittersweet note, I actually enjoyed the journey towards it. While the overall story draws people in, it’s the winding passages and hyper violence that makes them stay. What I also have to say helps contribute to the story would be the inclusion of several black and white painted images throughout the book which actually help give the reader a sense of the morbid events transpiring in the book *Though I can’t show them to you without giving away too much of the story*.
Another thing I have to talk about is how Tony Burgess helps make the world in this book believable. His descriptions of how the flora and fauna of the world has changed since the disappearance of the sun, the rampant sickness, how companies create bright colored images to reduce the severe depression help create an image of an Earth that has permanently changed for the worst. It is a world where people do not even look up or forward because they do not want to be reminded of the fate that awaits them after they die. The idea that a company would hire charismatic people to lull people into committing mass suicide in order to keep their profits up becomes a more plausible concept with how Tony Burgess has written this book.
Truthfully, I cannot actually go into too much detail about the characters of this story without giving too much information about the plot. But I will say that while the Narrator and Dixon are the primary focuses of the story and are incredibly fleshed out and believable, the minor characters helps build them and establish their personalities. All of the people mentioned in this story are memorable, which is a trait that can be difficult to establish in a novel.
Tony Burgess’s The N-Body Problem can be called many things; graphic, perverted, overtly violent and more. But that does not make it a bad book, it is different from the traditional horror novels that can be found in stores especially since genres such as Splatterpunk are not a mainstream commodity. If you have a strong stomach or want to test your mental limits, I would recommend this book.
You can check out Chizine Publications for other novels and stories here.