By Ben Walker
Sometimes a book’s title is all it needs to sell it, and how could any self-respecting fan of the weirder side of writing resist opening their virtual wallet to something called Turdmummy? I couldn’t, though I was a bit surprised at what I found inside.
This isn’t a book that takes its time, nor is it subtle, plunging straight into the murky waters of a nameless character’s toilet bowl as they discover tiny pyramids in their turds one day. No, they haven’t been swallowing Toblerones without chewing, they’ve picked up an inexplicable bowel infestation that steadily gets worse. If you’ve ever seen the Tenacious D short entitled Butt Baby then you’re somewhat prepared for what happens, and things just get weirder from there.
What I wasn’t expecting from this book was for the titular story to end so soon – I thought I was buying a novella, but this is actually a collection of short stories, which wasn’t super clear from the description, nor does the version I read have a table of contents up front to clue you in. No matter though – I’m not sure how long Turdmummy’s story could have continued considering how it plays out, so maybe it’s a good thing there were 15 other stories to delve into.
Those other tales range from Cameron Pierce levels of bizarro to more wacky hi-jinks and the occasional dig at societal norms, with good taste taking a seat all the way at the back of the bus. There’s a golem made of foreskins, a tampon horse, and a city built from the living bodies of redundant artists to name but a few examples. Many of the stories have a dark fairytale edge, playing out as morality tales via some well-worn scenarios – the prince who wants a wife, a man driven mad by power and so on. As familiar as some of the plots may feel, they’re always lent an unusual edge thanks to some truly surreal and often times disturbing imagery.
It’s a collection which pushes every boundary possible, in that there’s something to offend everyone. I can’t say that every story was for me, but that also feels like the book’s mission statement. Despite the depravity, it doesn’t make heroes out of the tormentors of victims, nor does it make many of its victims seem helpless. There’s sadness in some of the character’s struggles as well as horrible sights which you may not want to revisit, and some darker-than-dark humour. It’s not an easy read, but it rewards you with stories that aren’t simply gross for the sake of it, offering sly laughs and tragedy along with short blasts of straight-up weirdness.
One major plus point is that each story’s title serves as an effective taster of what’s to come, so you’ll likely make your mind up pretty fast as to whether you’ll want to make your way through something like The Meat Jelly Loverboy or The Heroin Baby Man. But hey, I’m probably preaching to the choir here – I mean, if you read any of this review beyond the word Turdmummy then you’re probably as curious as I was.
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.