"And that night John went to bed without eating his dinner. Zonked on zolpidem and single malt scotch, wrapped tightly in his super-special 1,000 thread counts sheets and nestled comfortably on his newfangled memory foam-reclining- adjustable king-sized bed, John blacked out just after lying down. Peaceful nothingness swirled around him, tossing off flecks of gold and strands of cool blue. The ten thousand things fled and left in their place a cozy void."
Sloughing Off the Rot by Lance Carbuncle is a story with an odd mix of genres.
John wakes up one morning to discover himself no longer in any recognisable place. His comfy bed replaced by hard ground and his soft pillow by a rock. He is pondering how he woke up in a cave, and the strange, dark hole a few feet away when a voice comes to him. The voice tells him he is "John the Revelator", followed by some Proclaimers' lyrics and some very ambiguous, unhelpful comments.
The voice tells John he needs redemption. To reach it, he must follow the path, never straying lest he lose the path and become lost to it forever.
The moment John exits the cave, he is met by a strange 'prophet-like' being, in the form of an almost naked hippie, who calls himself Santiago. Santiago is there to guide John, to walk beside him on the journey. However, Santiago is not the most stable of people, and John is now thoroughly confused. He can remember nothing of himself or his past, and he certainly wants nothing to do with this crazy, little man or his plans.
Lost in a desert, John just wants to find his way home. A burning bush tells him that he must follow the path to do so. This is John's second chance. He must follow the red-brick road of El Camino de la Muerte (The Way of Death) and never stray, if he wants to return. What happens on it and where it takes him is up to John.
With little choice, John sets off with the 'wise' Santiago at his side. Along the way they meet a vast assortment of characters. They are hunted by the zombie-like 'lunkheads'- who are men stripped down to nothing but their base desires. They are not the only wants hunting him.
A very weird, sometimes off-putting story. The best way to get through it is to not question it and follows John's example- just go with the flow. There's an odd mix of humour, fantasy and disturbing, adult horror. There are graphic scenes that may not be for the weak of heart, but there is also plenty of warmth to offset it. Though there are horror aspects, the character' reactions makes them seem less threatening and sickening. In fact, the characters just brush them off like nothing. They're almost horror without the horror.
Reading this book is like entering one of Salvador Dali's paintings- it's bleak, beautifully grotesque and utterly beyond description. Freud would have a field day. It's a bizarre mesh of adult versions of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Especially the latter. It can be hard to know what's going on, and there's a confusion to match John's own.
There are also a lot of Christian undertones (even John's name), all added in in a playful, semi-mocking manner. Not in a offensive way (though I'm sure some would disagree), more in a misplaced, I-think-there's-some-relevance-to-this-but-I-can't-find-it kind of way. Pop culture references are also blended into the mix, adding to the complete acid trip that is this book.
The characters themselves are synonymous with the many different sides of people. The ego, the superego and the id. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil, but suffice to say they are a look into the human psyche. Though I will add that Santiago reminds me a little of a more explicit Zaphod Beeblebrox, minus the snazzy outfits, spaceship and extra head. He's quite charming in his own psychotic way.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. If this review got you interested, why not check it out? Though one tip? Don't overthink it too much, just let it be. Let it wash you through the pages, and only once you've finished the book should you think back and wonder what on Earth you just read.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.