Monday, November 10, 2014

Looks Like You Been Hittin' the Pus a Little Hard Lately

The following is a review of Shane McKenzie's bizarro novel Pus Junkies that originally appeared in Splatterpunk #5.
Shane McKenzie is a seriously disturbed individual.

Any author who describes a thick globule of pus as “custard” might want to consider a head shrinker.  Or maybe not. ‘Cause it’s that kind of warped mind that brings us such a nasty treat as Pus Junkies, Shane's first bizarro novel from Eraserhead Press.

Kip suffers from a debilitating case of acne that has earned him the grand title of the Toad from his jeering classmates. His cousin Zak, an instantly popular and good-looking guy, comes to live with Kip and his mother and decides he’s going to bring Kip out of his shell. When the students who have poked fun at Kip his entire life find out that the pus from his zits has intense, addictive properties akin to a one-two meth- ecstasy-like knockout, the tables turn and kip has to deal with hysterical popularity like he could never have imagined. That’s when the shit really hits the fan.

I’ve been a fan of McKenzie’s work for some time now. When I heard he was writing a novel called Pus Junkies I think I cackled, because that’s not only a brilliant title, but a cringe worthy and vile pretense for a story, considering the brief synopsis explaining that yes, Kip’s schoolmates find out that his pus is a drug, and yes, they want to “lick the Toad”. Ever thought about licking someone’s pimply face? Me neither. But let me tell you, that kind of nastiness makes for one hell of a riveting story, and not just because of the gross-out factor and the blood and guts. There’s much more to Pus Junkies than that.

Writing a book that is dripping with bodily fluids and ample with potential gag reflexes could easily become gratuitous and boring, and could certainly fall into the stinking pit of ridiculosity, however McKenzie, an author who is not only comfortable with extreme horror, but has cut out his niche there, knows how to do it right, and that begins with stunning characterizations that bring Kip and Zak to life. I’ve met these guys. I’ve known them, because they breathe from the pages no matter what kind of sick shit McKenzie puts them through. And that’s goddamned important, because sick shit without believable characters is just sick shit, and that doesn’t work for me.

Pus Junkies is a gripping tale that, if you strip away the blood, guts, and pus, you’ll find more relevant with every story you see on the news about a kid being bullied and taking his or her life or taking the lives of others. Well worth the price of admission.

If this sounds like the kind of crazy shit you're interested in reading then why not buy a copy of Pus Junkies or Shane's more recent bizarro novel Toilet Baby.

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