By Jeffrey Thomas (Prime Books; 2003)
Jeffrey Thomas is one of the most original authors on the scene, and the Bram Stoker award-nominated MONSTROCITY is one of his key works. It’s an imaginative combination of Lovecraftian horror and interplanetary sci fi, with a descriptive power and narrative drive that are virtually unique. It’s set in the city of Punktown, located on the distant planet Oasis–the setting of Thomas’s collection PUNKTOWN and novels EVERYBODY SCREAMS and DEADSTOCK.
The Punktown of MONSTROCITY is host to many earthborn humans and all manner of extraterrestrial mutants. But there’s also a scary interdimensional force afoot that seems to be steadily expanding its influence. Is the monstrosity utilizing the city for its evil purposes or are things actually the other way around?
It all begins with Christopher Ruby, an aimless young punk, jokingly invoking a demon under the guidance of his occult-minded girlfriend Gaby. She has a download of the NECRONOMICON, the legendary “Book of the Dead”, and intones one of its spells. But the joke takes on unfunny dimensions when Gaby undergoes a gruesome physical transformation and weird patterns begin turning up throughout the city, along with foreboding buildings that crop up in various unlikely locations.
Other strange happenings involve Dove Books, an occult bookstore located in the city’s (literal) underground district, and the store’s owner Mr. Dove, who evinces an unnatural interest in both Gaby and the NECRONOMICON. There’s also Saleet, a law enforcement officer with whom Chris falls in love after Gaby expires. Chris doesn’t realize, however, that Saleet has a definite connection with the odd events taking place in Punktown.
The book is fast-moving and contains an agreeable amount of gore, slime and vividly imagined otherworldly critters. The first person narrative is compelling, told by a protagonist who fits in extremely well with the residents of Punktown, being a cynical working stiff who assuages his grief at the death of his GF in the arms of a whore. Jeffrey Thomas’s take on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos (the inception, for those who don’t know, of the NECRONOMICON) is a witty and idiosyncratic one, and makes for a nice fit with the sci fi business.
Equally fine is the conclusion, which after much breakneck action closes the book out on a contemplative note, a most unexpected choice that somehow works. Unexpected describes MONSTROCITY as a whole, along with exciting, absorbing and, in the end, extremely satisfying.