By Ben Walker
Constance Ann Fitzgerald’s Trashland A Go-Go is, in a word, interesting. Here are roughly more words about it.
Take one large part of Alice in Wonderland, add a few dashes of The Wizard of Oz, Street Trash, Frankenhooker along with a pinch of any House of Mouse movie featuring a chatty animal sidekick, and you’re pretty close to the erratically beating heart of this weird novella. Following a (dead? undead?) pole dancer as she navigates her way through a literal kingdom of trash, there are influences aplenty on show, probably more than those named above, and a healthy dose of black humour. Whilst this doesn’t make for a story packed with surprises, it does make for an easy, fun read.
There’s a message, too, a point to be made about how some men view women as throwaway objects. This gives our hero, Coco, a chance at redemption and a good old-fashioned smattering of revenge. Accompanying her is a talking fly named Rudy, and together they traverse the stinking wasteland Coco finds herself stuck in. Is it a spectacularly large dump, a parallel world, or a collective figment of various imaginations? It depends on how you look at it, though the fact that more animals than just the flies can talk should give you a clue, along with the flesh-hungry oracles, killer robots, perilous brain-sucking spores and so on.
Just like Lewis Carroll’s laudanum-fuelled tales, the peril steadily ramps up as Coco digs deeper down into this strange new world. Unlike those trippy kids’ stories, Trashland features more than a few moments of extreme horror and grossness, including some unfortunate uses for a cat that will have pet lovers gritting their teeth, and an escape scene fouler than Andy Dufresne’s last few yards out of Shawshank. There’s also a grindhouse-worthy moment where a cornered Coco takes matters into her own mouth, which will either have you cheering, or crossing your legs—maybe both at once!
There have been similarly hard-edged, feminist versions of this story before of course—Christina Henry’s Alice books spring to mind, only Trashland plays a little looser with the characters and scenes it takes its cues from. For the most part, it carves its own path, proving that one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. And even though Coco’s journey isn’t always an easy one, it’s no spoiler to say that it ends with magic.
Ben Walker is a writer/reviewer from the UK, with reviews appearing on Ginger Nuts of Horror, Kendall Reviews, and in Unnerving Magazine. He also has a booktube channel, BLURB, and is easily distracted on twitter @BensNotWriting.