Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Skinjumper review

     Skinjumper is a hard book to review as it exists on the edge between a horror novel and a black comedy. It is a transgressive work, pushing buttons and boundaries in order to make an impression on the reader. Sometimes this works wonderfully well, making you laugh out loud at the sheer audacity of the author while other times it falls flat because the villainous protagonist is too repulsive.   

    The premise tells you everything you need to know about the zany, horrible, weird world of Skinjumper. As a teenager, Terry Miller participates in a necromantic ritual to resurrect a dog his Alex friend accidentally poisons with chocolate. After strangling, another dog to do it, the ritual fails and he thinks nothing of it for a decade. Terry then discovers his longtime girlfriend has been secretly sleeping with his father and murders them both.

    This act triggers Terry's power to Skinjump, moving from body to body as long as he strangles the life out of his intended host. This would be a horrific premise if not for the fact Terry is a moron. Despite possessing a power which, literally, should mean it's impossible for him to be captured by law enforcement, he creates such a massive pile of bodies that even mundane authorities are drawn to investigate him.

    The book is at its most enjoyable whenever Terry is screwing up. The early parts of the books are hilarious because, again, Terry is a moron. Watching him make horrible mistake after horrible mistake, always ending in murder, is like a delightful train wreck. Alex is, arguably, even worse as he is deranged enough as an adult to see nothing particularly strange about his formerly skinny white friend showing up as a large black man. The two, together, make a twisted set of villains.

    Where the book hits a snag is, sometimes, the author tries to treat Terry and Alex's situations seriously. They're both such irredeemable pieces of crap, I wanted nothing more than to watch them create an ever-greater series of disasters until they get themselves killed. The last third of the book, however, has them get their s*** together enough to mount a semi-competent plan to murder a woman Terry has become obsessed with.

    This is a mistake as it just becomes tedious hoping for the two of them to get hit by a truck as they go after the only likable character in the book. A better decision might have been to keep the situations so over-the-top they are impossible to look away from. I found myself disappointed the two's first fight, over whether Terry in a prostitute's body should sleep with Alex, didn't go places. If you're going to create such an insane situation, you should follow it through to a conclusion of some sort.

    Skinjumper isn't going to be a novel or everyone. Terry and Alex are a repulsive pair of misogynist psychopaths who are only tolerable because it's clear the author knows they're a pair of evil idiots. The supporting cast is never quite as entertaining as these two when they're blundering about and a few of their subplots go nowhere. I was very fond of the character Rose and wanted nothing more than to see her put a bullet into the head of both. I'm not a big fan of the ending, though, which is more horror when it should have been funny.

    Still, Skinjumper is memorable. The fact the author is willing to start with such an absurdest premise buys the book a lot of forgiveness. If you have a fondness for pitch-black comedy and a desire to see suburbia at its most needing to be destroyed, this is the book for you.


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