Posted on May 28, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
Avaialble at Amazon.com
So I decided to take a break from my normal routine here, and review a book that doesn’t fall under the realm of “zombie fiction” , I know dear readers- it’s a scary world out there when you decide to jump- but I if you can’t broaden your horizons, even just a little, you are doomed to a life of sedentary devotion, and well- I looked around and saw that the book had never been reviewed which is a shame because it’s fantastic, so might as well, right? Onward ho!
Albert Camus, the mid twentieth century writer and philosopher, who penned the fantastic piece of literary work called “The Stranger” along with the concept of “the absurd” in post modern, existential philosophy also released a book entitled “The Rebel” which was an essay on man in revolt, or at least that’s what the byline says. Anyway- in the introduction to the piece of work Camus goes on to discuss the relationship between murder and suicide, and brings it to the poetically powerful analysis, and I quote ,“Here suicide and murder are two aspects of a single system, the system of a misguided intelligence that prefers, to the suffering imposed by a limited situation, the dark victory in which heaven and earth are annihilated.”And then I was blown away…not by Al’s wonderful statement, well, OK, yes and no on that one, but I had already read the book so that’s not really fair play, but because he had diagnosed the exact plot of “The Suicide Collectors.”
I shall go on.
Let’s say this, one day you wake up, right ? And everything is fantastic in the world, the sun is shining and the beauty of life is ecstatically unfolding in the shapes of flowers and moon beams, then you turn on your television-hear about a suicide cult’s attack on a Tokyo nightclub, turn off the Television go to the roof and jump. Now let’s say this has been happening to every major town and every major city in the whole world, and after the good people have committed their act , a mysterious group of cloaked beings known only as “The Collectors” begins to appear and take the bodies away. Well now you have the idea behind the opening of “The Suicide Collectors.” Released in 2008 by St. Martin’s Griffin, and penned by the Bram Stoker award nominee David Oppegard-also the author of “Wormwood,Nevada.” It’s a novel of emotional force, and stunning terror simultaneously pushing the limits of genre fiction, and bridging the jump from slipstream to the shores of literary fiction.
The Story begins in Florida with our main protagonist Norman, who along with his wife Jordan and wily inventor /mechanic neighbor, who they lovingly refer to as “Pops”, are the last three people in the area not effected by “The Despair”, which is the unseen and seemingly incurable disorder that causes the rest of the population to commit suicide. the action begins ,when upon Norman’s return home from fishing, he discovers the woman he loved and tried to protect from “The Despair” has decided to take a very permanent dosage of pills. Norman, distraught with grief and shock takes an unprecedented act of defiance against “The Collectors” which begins a cross country mission to find any remnants of survivors and the truth about a mythic cure.
Aided by “Pops” and a preteen girl whose name is “Zero” they com into contact with all forms of horror both real and imagined. And without giving away the whole of the story and ending, because it would be a shame for you not to discover the meaning behind the book on your own-find that sometimes it isn’t the journey, sometimes it is the end which is the most telling moment in your life.
I would have to say this about the book, it is a fantastic piece of work, well written, paced, technically enjoyable-it doesn’t have the typographical errors you see so much of these days with smaller press publications and even though in this reviewers opinion the ending seems to fall a bit short of the grandeur that is the quest for reason, as a contrast to the above statement by Mr. Camus ( you had to have known I was going to tie this all up some how) the book works on a level of existential fiction on par with that of “The Stranger.” It allows you the freedom to examine what horror is, but also the freedom to understand that maybe there is no reason for horror, maybe there is nothing that we can do in these sorts of “Absurd” situations. The book further goes on to ask the tough questions, what sort of omnipresent being, if there is one that resides in the kingdom of heaven, would allow such measures to take hold of the earth? What does the end really mean? And what, if anything can we do about a choice against the world in our own lives? It also delves into what the purpose for survival is, and what lengths humanity might go to establish order from chaos, as explored by the Norman and his groups run ins with other survivors.
So, yes, on a purely philosophical scale the book hits all the right notes. But on a scale of horror, maybe lets say 1-10, it falls to a mere 5. There are elements of psychological terror, yes, but as for a real menacing quality, one that leaves you thinking, what was that over my shoulder? No, there’s nothing behind any door here that would make you think, don’t open it, don’t open the door.
The vision of “The Collectors” is an appropriately unnerving one, clad in black funeral robes, reminiscent of the chorus of a greek tragedy, with no real dialog coming from their end of the book, they present a nearly blank canvas to envision your terrors on, but that’s about all. The real source of horror in the book is rooted more in the murky soil of the human soul, than it is in any existence of the paranormal which “The Collectors” come to symbolize. It is in the encounters with strange Bushido following cults commuting Seppuku, or towns ravaged by bands of starving feral children that send the shivers down your spine. All of which the author handles superbly by not allowing the voices of the characters to be tainted by his own personal one. Don’t get me wrong though, this book is terrifying in it’s own right, and thought provoking and fascinating, and well, a fantastic read-it’s just that in my horror, I like to feel, well, horrified and there was nothing in this book that left me feeling that way. But again, that may be my own personal sense of taste soaking through the review.
Now again, I know what you’re going to say- but you said it was stunning in it’s terror, and yes you are right, but terror and horror are two sides of the same coin, both similar and different. Terror abounds in this book, but horror,well- here’s an example : I can experience terror for my life as I watch a grizzly bear run out of the woods and rumble it’s fat bottom towards me, but it is not the same as me finding out that there is a large worm growing inside me that wishes to eat my insides out, that would be horror. Terror is a psychological trait and horror is a far more physical one. But again they are reciprocal- you tend to not have one with out the other.
Which is where, and really the only place I think “The Suicide Collectors” falls short- in it’s ability to be a horror novel. But in terms of everything else, in relation to philosophy, and psychology, and TERROR – yes it hits all those notes, pitch perfect. So if you have come to the end of this now, extensively long review and want to get “The Suicide Collectors” go for it, just be prepared to have a headache from thinking too much as opposed to being afraid to sleep without the lights on.
Review by Eric Pollarine