Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Etchison's idiosyncratic style and subject matter are in full view here, from the near-future horrors of the "Transplant trilogy" ("The Machine Demands a Sacrifice", "Calling All Monsters", "The Dead Line"), in which the demand for organ donors has ventured into Pythonesque territory, to The Hardy Boys Goe To Hell weirdness of "Daughter of the Golden West."
The award-winning title novella is perhaps the weirdest story here, a subtle horror story about a bad Mexican vacation in which the horrors never completely manifest themselves. It's like a vignette from Apocalypse Now by way of Spring Break. There's also blatant, bloody revenge fantasy suggestive of EC horror comics in "The Pitch" and "Today's Special" and "We Have All Been Here Before."
Two of Etchison's major tropes -- Southern California and "the road" -- appear again and again here, sometimes in concert (the Los Angeles area has a lot of cars and a lot of drivers, after all). Everyone seems to be in transit; everyone is the target of sinister but often undefined horrors that can come from anywhere, anytime. The seemingly ordinary -- late-night convenience-store clerks, highway rest stops, tow trucks, even television laugh tracks -- shimmer with hidden menace, sometimes fatally revealed. Some things come out of the dark; some things hunt in the sun. Highly recommended.