By Zé Burns
On the opening night of BizarroCon (in January), I watched John Skipp hand Danger Slater the coveted first copy of his upcoming novel Impossible James. Obsessive fan that I am, I waited until Danger set down the book for a moment. When he wasn’t looking, I snuck over and read a few pages. It was then that I knew I had to have this book. Six months later, it was in my hands.
As you can tell, Danger is one of my favorite modern authors. He knows who he is and stays true to that. As author Josh Malerman said, “Danger is fearless and should be ashamed of himself. Thank God he’s not.” His new novel Impossible James only strengthened his pedestal in my pantheon of revered writers.
Meet James Watson, a mentally unstable employee of Motherlove Inc. (a parody of Amazon and the vast, controlling monopoly it is becoming), who watches paint dry for a living. When diagnosed with a black spot on the brain and prognosis of only fifty years left to live, his “impending” mortality causes his fragile sanity to crack.
But when an errant screwdriver embeds itself in his brain, it awakens a new part of his mind and he knows what he has to do. He must clone himself, using his own body as a vessel through experimental self-impregnation. The first of these clones James Watson Jr. narrates the story as a final testament to his “father” on the eve of the apocalypse.
His prose is his sharpest yet; evocative metaphors abound as can be seen in this description of sunrise:
“… the sun dragged its purple tongue against the bottom of the horizon, preparing to chew its way out of the night.”
The novel is suffused with Danger’s unique sense of humor. Like his other works, he employs comedic body horror, more funny than gruesome. Yet he matches humor with depth, an intelligent book guised in silliness. That’s what makes it so enjoyable.
But with all this, there is a reason why I docked this otherwise spectacular book half a point. It had every element of a great Danger Slater novel, but that may be the problem. Despite its original plot, characters, and subject matter, I feel like I’ve read this book from him before. He knows what works (and it works well), but I’d love to see him branch out more. If this is your first or even second Danger book, you won’t notice it. Still, I’m nitpicking.
Read this book. I don’t know how else to say it.
Zé Burns is a Seattle-based author of horror and the surreal, an avid proponent of bizarro fiction, and a lover of all things weird. He is the editor-in-chief and owner of Babou 691. You can find him on Twitter at @ZeBurns or on his site: zeburns.com.