By Robert Devereaux (www.roberdevereaux.com; 2007/8)
Robert Devereaux isn’t a writer known for his subtlety, and it’s safe to say that in DEADOLESCENCE (currently available as a serialized e-text on the author’s website) he goes waaaaaaay over the top. A bizarre refashioning of PROM NIGHT as an allegory of post-9/11 America, this novel is either terminally loopy or some kind of satiric tour de force.
The setting is the Demented States of America, led by one President Windfucker (from his post at the “Shit House”). Citizens of the DSA consider earlobes to be objects of fetish, and have various coverings they wear over their lobes. Surgically implanted vaginal teeth are another peculiarity of this society, as are three-way marriages and school courses in butchery.
The school in this case is Corundum High in Kansas. It’s prom night, and here as in every high school across the DSA a yearly ritual is about to commence: the school will be closed off and a boy and girl selected to be butchered at the hands of a “designated slasher.” Afterward the corpses are laid out for the rest of the students to rip apart, each taking away a piece of their dead friends as a nostalgic keepsake.
This year, however, things end up going a little differently at Corundum High. An anti-slasher group has infiltrated the school, quite a few fed-up administrators are afoot, and at least one parent turns up who isn’t too happy about abandoning his child to the designated slasher. Once the killing commences, it’s clear the slasher isn’t stopping at just one couple–and that there’s more than just one slasher!
You can Call Robert Devereaux many things, but predictable isn’t one of them. His debut novel was the outrageous zombie romance DEADWEIGHT, followed by SANTA STEPS OUT, the first and best example of Santa porn, and the novella CALIBAN, which retells Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST from the point of view of a key supporting character. While other writers are content to rest on their laurels or recycle a single theme over and over, Devereaux continues to push the boundaries, and DEADOLESCENCE is nothing if not boundary-pushing.
The early chapters read like an amalgam of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and a Zucker Brothers parody that gives way to all-out splatter in the latter ones. The nastiest bit is saved for last, involving “shared vengeance” (apparently “the considerate thing to do”).
The people in DEADOLESCENCE are nearly all staunchly patriotic citizens of the Demented States of America, meaning there are very few likeable characters. This doesn’t make for a particularly likeable story, although the prose, accomplished in Devereaux’s usual baroque vernacular, is a joy to read.
Like I said, the novel’s an enigma. If nothing else, it’s certainly the finest X-rated alternate universe government appointed teenage slasher novel I’ve ever read!