Truth in Ruins by John Edward Lawson

So this was my first experience with the genre known as bizarro fiction.  If I had to pull out a meaning of bizarro fiction from this anthology I would say that it’s a genre which laughs and revels at its own ridiculousness all the while smacking you in the face with some powerful, universal truths.  The stories in this collection require to leave your sense of normality at the door and be ready to have any and everything thrown at you.  These stories take your expectations of normality and punch them in the face, which is a good thing.  As a reader and aspiring writer, I look to be challenged and to be shown different ways of thinking.  This anthology is that and more.

Even with its bizarro elements, the anthology did keep to a certain theme of death and destruction.  It shows the world time and time again in a state that is in disrepair.  In “The Non-Duality of Elanoir” we see a world where Chicago is the last remaining city of a humanity beset by a plant apocalypse, forcing humanity to genetically alter their surroundings to survive.  The story shows that even at the end of our days, there are still normal things that we cling and those who will challenge the respected social norm.  The ending of the story suggests consequences for rigidity and experimentation in a society.

“A Serpent’s Crushing Weight” gives us a story about a never ending train that promises to take its passengers somewhere but never really does.  The main character’s need to get to a new metropolis and never really managing to get there strikes at the heart of a dilemma facing many of today’s youth in suburban and rural areas looking for something better, but never being able to find it.  How many young people go to the city in the hope of finding something new, but really spinning their wheels?  I feel like this story critiques that, but given the genre I’m also pretty sure that I could be completely wrong too.  It’s just that topsy turvy.

“Belly of the City” definitely gave me Silent Hill vibes in its presentation, but man is this story downright horrifying in some of its descriptions.  This a nightmare world where strangers get sucked into and find themselves altered by the very nature of the place.  It’s macabre, scary, and you can feel your blood pumping as you witness the main character trying to make sense of this terrifying world.  The final battle towards the end of the story is probably the most apocalyptic in scope that this anthology gets.

“Truth in Ruins” is the longest and ultimately crowning piece of this anthology.  It’s a dystopian world that divides its population up between profilers and serial killers, somehow coming to the belief that people’s base natures places them into one of the two categories.  As I said, bizarro fiction goes there and runs with it.  And there’s a few clever critiques along the way in this story as all police are noted as being serial killers.  I caught that bit and laughed then frowned when I had to stop and think about much truth there might be in such a hyperbolic statement.  Like I said, this genre can make you think even as you’re dealing with an insane scenario involving genetically altered chimpanzees attacking a group of people who are suspicious of each other being a killer of serial killers.   It’s quite crazy and also a lot of damn fun.

This is just some of the anthology and there is plenty to be found in it.  A man looking for his face.  Two detectives being wired up for violence.  There’s plenty to sink your teeth into and get a grip on.  My first venture into bizarro fiction was a fun one and while the genre can be a bit jarring to get into at first, you really have to admire the freedom in it.  You write whatever you want, however the hell you want and go wild with abandon.  I think other genres could take notes.

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