(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)
Book review: TENTACLE DEATH TRIP
Jordan Krall is one of the most unique voices working in fiction today. In 2011 he released Beyond the Valley of the Apocalypse Donkeys with Copeland Valley Press. The novel was well received by critics and readers alike and helped cement the author as master of the bizarre. Now Krall is once again working with the Cthulhu Mythos, something he already weaved into his work in Fistful of Feet, a bizarro literature classic that featured Cthulhu-worshipping Indians. Rather than just contributing a new story to the mythos cannon, what Krall has achieved with his latest novel with Eraserhead Press, Tentacle Death Trip, is an explosive, fast-paced narrative that brings together the dystopian future, cross-country race mayhem of Death Race 2000, a plethora of Lovecraftian elements and the violence, humor and uniqueness of the bizarro genre.
Tentacle Death Trip takes place in the year 2025. The world suffered a nuclear and biological war that changed things forever and the U.S. is now a strange wasteland where weird things grow and everyone is trying to survive. The country is full of religious fanatics with a taste for human flesh, dangerous mutants, violent gangs, freaks and monsters. The man ruling over this wasteland is a rich mobster known as Mr. Silver. Since entertaining the people is one of the things Mr. Silver likes to do the most, he puts together one of his deathly races. This time around, the winner gets something very special: a trip to an island that has risen off the Eastern Seaboard, the ancient city of R’lyeh. Only five drivers are picked by Mr. Silver and all bring something special to the race. There’s Samson, a loner who lost his wife and son and now crisscrosses the country while racing and looking for his son. Drac Dunwich, a man with a glass skull and a dark past who drives a tentacled car. Gabby Peppermint, a crazy, beautiful and very spoiled girl who loves blood and is always talking to no one on a dead cell phone. Junko, a cross-dressing ex-sex slave who escaped from his master. Mama Hell, a God-fearing Christian who is appalled at the current state of affairs and wears a shawl made of human skin full of moving tattoos. As the racers tear through a post-apocalyptic New Jersey landscape, they’re forced to battle whatever they find, their own personal stories and each other. In the end, the winner will only get the opportunity to face the biggest danger of all: R’lyeh.
The story is wildly entertaining and moves at breakneck speed. Krall switches between characters constantly and reveals the back stories of all of them without ever abandoning the action for too long. Also, while some writers pick Lovecraftian elements in an attempt to make their tales better, Krall has a profound understanding of how Lovecraftian literature works and, despite his honest prose and attention to detail, a few elements in the book are left shrouded in darkness and mystery and bring pure joy to mythos enthusiasts. Eccentric cults, lost tomes full of eldritch knowledge and things that slither around behind a curtain of fog are all part of “Tentacle Death Trip.”
The best thing about Tentacle Death Trip is not that it reads like an ode to B-movies and Lovecraft alike; the best thing about it is Krall’s rhythm and his ability to sprinkle in whatever the story needs at any particular moment in order to achieve equilibrium. The gruesome deaths and horrible mutations are balance with healthy doses of humor and Samson’s interactions with a boy he rescues (and who eventually becomes a very important part of the narrative). Also, the uncanny characters and wild nature of the race itself are ultimately offset by the last few chapters of the book and the message they deliver: don’t mess with R’lyeh.
If you enjoy tentacles and velocity, Tentacle Death Trip needs to be on your bookshelves and Jordan Krall has to be on your radar as an author that consistently puts out great books.
(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)