By Ben Walker
Many bizarro titles sell themselves on the title alone, and Dani Brown’s Ketamine Addicted Pandas is no exception to that rule. A mere two pages into the novel, it gets straight to the meat of the matter—pandas escaping the drudgery of zoo life to seek their revenge on humanity, which involves sucking down more special K than a taste tester in a cereal factory.
Oh, and those big bears are horny. Violently horny. Any people unlucky enough to cross their path often find themselves on the receiving end of some, er, panda loving, before their brains get eaten. Depraved doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe the—I’ve got to say it—panda-monium on offer here. Sex and death work their way into almost every chapter, which is not unusual if you’ve experienced Brown’s writing before. For a newcomer expecting more of a cheeky romp alongside some belligerent bears, you’d be better off thinking Wrath James White, not Jack Black.
Essentially it’s a send-up of the black metal craze; the self-perceived edginess of corpse-faced groups, circle-headbanging their way through spruce forests, breaking out the illicit substances and chucking a few swears at a passing nun. Only it’s taken to much greater extremes here, and the hair is a lot shorter. There’s a gut-worrying amount of goo and gore as the bears form their own band, destroying rivals and Nazis with equal relish along the way. Every imaginable kind of bodily fluid (and solid) imaginable gets tossed around, to the point where the pages threaten to make your fingertips itch. Like a kid in an elevator, the story presses every button it can, stopping at every floor to giggle at the people it’s offending.
There’s only one issue that might hamper your enjoyment, and that’s one of pacing. For the first third you follow the pandas on a fairly easy ride, the plot taking something of a back seat to the depravity. Those extreme moments sometimes struggle to hold things together, but the chapters are mostly short sharp bursts, so you can easily catch up if you dip in and out. And things do pick up again once a few vengeful, reanimated Nazis and various demons crawl up from Hell to confront the pandas, after which the book somehow takes an even more extreme turn. The sadistic perversity on display goes so far that—just like when you tour with a band—it’s easy to feel desensitised, the excess becoming almost exhausting. For that reason, it’s probably best experienced in small chunks.
If you struggled to finish other extreme/bizarro stories like Ass Goblins from Auschwitz then you’ll probably struggle here too. However, if you like the mental image of pandas defiling anything and anyone they can get their hands on, including each other, then step right this way. There’s a lot of it about.
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.