luminous body

Luminous Body, Brooke Warra’s lovely novella, is a beautiful, rich, and unnervingly honest amalgam of family ties, motherhood, illness, and body horror. It is an engrossing story of a life lived on and beyond the margins, masterfully told.

***

luminous bodyI don’t know quite how to describe Luminous Body. It covers so much ground in so few pages– family dynamics, exploitative relationships, unhealthy friendships, memory, addiction, and lies. Warra’s language and phrasing is wonderful, precise and evocative. Her skill in drawing her characters renders them painfully real, fully developed and as hopeful and damaged as any of us are. It is a slice of life colored with strange magic.

I wish I had written it.

***

Mo, the narrator, comes from a long line of tenacious but marginalized women. Her mother died several years earlier, and she never knew her father. Mo is mentally ill by her own admission. She scrapes by, working as a waitress at her grandmother’s diner. She lives in a cheap apartment, does her nails with magic markers, drinks too much, smokes, and sleeps around. She is damaged, and, like any of us, is just trying to deal with it and get by.

And then one day she discovers she is pregnant. And then she discovers she is not. And then the mystery at the heart of Luminous Body begins.

***

Beautifully realized, Warra’s tale is full of the fine, awkward details that make up a tangled and misspent life. Every mistake, bad decision, manipulation and abandonment feels true. By the time Mo’s narrative slides sideways into the weird, that feels like just one more genuine experience, too.

This is the kind of book you read for the writing as much as for the plot. Gorgeously illustrated by Brooke Warra’s daughter, Zoe Leigh, Luminous Body is currently available as a limited edition, numbered chapbook from Dim Shores. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

shout kill revel repeat

Shout Kill Revel Repeat, Scott R. Jones’s new collection, is a dizzying trip through the void.

Lovecraft’s ideas make frequent appearances, but not as pastiche. Jones’s stories fly in multiple new directions, at turns frenetic and understated, militaristic, mystical, and sinister. 

His meaty, visceral prose and plots that flow in great loops across time and space, peopled with ghouls and Old Ones and shoggoths, imply motives and purposes that cannot even be recognized by frail humans. Jones does a remarkable job of conveying the utterly alien incomprehensibility of the Lovecraftian cosmos. His characters struggle to navigate a universe that doesn’t care if they exist or not. They are irrelevant to everything but themselves, and they know it.

***

shout kill revel repeatShout Kill Revel Repeat gathers seventeen tales of cosmic horror and science fiction that are immersive and jarringly realistic for all their weirdness. The common thread I find running through them is the instability of time, and what that instability costs. Plots and events are slippery things, unanchored and inconstant, while characters fight to keep their balance. It is all quite beautifully done.

My favorites are:

“The Spike”, which uses an ambitious employee in far over his head to introduce us to Eidolon Corporation and the recurring character of Aldo Tusk, a weird and mysterious tech magnate. 

“Last Stand at Cougar Annie’s”, an end of the world scenario after genetically altered men–and militarized women– have become the enemy. 

“Living” brings back Aldo Tusk, isolated in the arctic and facing down a driven, adaptive, and superhuman weapon of his own design. 

“Assemblage” Point” reads like a strange, gorgeously convoluted take on Sunset Boulevard’s story structure. It’s one of those uncommon second-person narratives that wouldn’t work properly from a different point of view.

“Wonder and Glory Forever” connects a lost and motherless man with the devout worshipper of an ancient sea god, in a surfing community in the Pacific Northwest. Vividly told, and compelling in its half-revealed secrets.

***

Jones, the man behind the late Martian Migraine Press, has also just released the novel Stonefish. So if you enjoy the dark worlds of Shout Kill Revel Repeat, there is immediately more to be had. I highly recommend diving in.