In Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes, the reader is thrust into a bizarre world where nothing is quite right, and it almost seems as if it should be that way. This world, known as the Slave State, unfolds in nine short stories that are not for the faint of heart. The opening story, “The Family Man,” is only a page and a half, yet the sheer brutality described therein sets a tone for the rest of the stories. The title story is told from the point of view of a mistreated dog who, after being castrated, is overcome with the desire to be a writer. “Baptizm of Fire,” set in surreal version of Lagos, Nigeria, descends into a nightmare of both love and murder that pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the horrors of the Slave State. And when the reader finally reaches bottom, the incarnation of the bestial Slave State stares back with eyes dripping with viscera.
Few books have disturbed me. And of those few, none have disturbed as Chris Kelso has in this collection. From the bizarre atmosphere evoked from the first page, all the way to the final, horrific transformation in “Birth, Sex, Death, Stigmata,” I could not stop the mental cringes. The dark imagery, the emotional punches to the groin, the utter emptiness of the loss of control… Dread lurked on every page, yet I had to have more, as if I were searching for hope, though all the while knowing I would never find it.
“Baptizm of Fire” was the blood-curdling and thought-provoking standout of an amazing collection of bizarre fiction deserving of five talismans. If the lasting, disturbing impression this collection has made on me is any sign, Chris Kelso will soon be a major presence in the genre. One that should be feared.
(Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes, published by Bizzaro Pulp Press, is available here. It’s been a few months since I’ve read it, but I still get shivers when I recall certain scenes in “Baptizm of Fire.”)