Slasher Obsession

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by [Stephen Graham Jones]

Title: My Heart Is a Chainsaw
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
Genre: Mystery/Slasher Horror
Pages: 416
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Future Release Date: August 31, 2021 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way impacts the content of my review)

If you love slasher movies, you have to read this book. If (like me) you think most slasher horror is pretty stupid and can’t be bothered to watch it unless there’s a really clever twist, you might still want to read it. If you absolutely hate slasher stuff, give it a pass.

This book has a distinctly self-aware tone. Our slasher-obsessed protagonist/narrator, Jade, knows everything there is to know about the genre. Each chapter ends with a rather facetious extra credit paper written by her in which she explores the origins, structure, tropes, worldview, etc. of classic slasher movies. For me, these were possibly the most interesting part of the book and almost (but not quite) made me want to check out some of the gory classic franchises that I never bothered to watch.

Jade the “horror chick” is not the most likeable of narrators as she is sullen, antisocial, knee-jerk rebellious, and seems incapable of thinking/talking about anything other than slashers. That said, she is a pitiable character shaped by her rotten life circumstances (trigger warnings for just about anything nasty that can happen to a teenage girl), and the slasher obsession even makes sense by the end.

Most of the story involves Jade thinking that she sees signs/tropes/circumstances that indicate a real-life “slasher cycle” is about to play out right in her backwoods Idaho town (which makes her disturbingly gleeful). It’s a slow burn as you wonder how much of this buildup is real and how much is a figment of her obsession-warped psyche.

Somewhere between the 60% and 70% mark things finally explode into a frenzy of action as we find out what has been going on…kind of. It’s so chaotic and explanations of a few of the more “red herring” aspects are so lightly passed over and dismissed that some things remain pretty up in the air (perhaps intentionally as if teasing a sequel?). Personally, I thought that the slow buildup was much more interesting than the huge over-the-top action set piece, which is probably why I’m not a huge fan of the genre. I did not enjoy this as much as the author’s The Only Good Indians (which is itself pretty much slasher horror of an oddly literary bent), but it’s definitely worth a read.

Meta Mashup

Title: (OMG) Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age (LOL)
Author: Stefan Soto
Genre: Picaresque Satire
Pages: 300
Rating: 2.5 of 5

First, thank you to the author for providing me a free copy via netgalley. (this does not affect the content of the review)

This book is basically an excuse to have various fictional characters interact with each other in the modern world. If you look up picaresque novel on Wikipedia, you will get a pretty good idea of the wandering, disconnected style of this book. The focus is on individual episodes and snarky quips rather than an overall plot with the connections between episodes being fairly random and unbelievable. If you like this picaresque style you will probably enjoy the book…personally, I’m not a huge fan (I was expecting a tighter plot due to blurbs comparing it to The Eyre Affair).

As far as the characters go, some of the characterizations were spot on (e.g. the idealistic Don Quixote and vain Cyrano de Bergerac whose interaction is one of the better scenes) and others were less so (e.g. the Star Trek characters felt like the author wasn’t very familiar with them other than in a general make-fun-of-the-best-known-tropes kind of way). The elements of irony, satire, and meta-fiction woven throughout were entertaining enough to keep me reading, but overall it was only a so-so book for me.