What book did Michael H just finish reading?
by BRIAN EVENSON
Have you ever thought about chopping off your hand and cauterizing the stub with a hot plate to show your devotion to the new cult you just joined? Me either.
(DISCLAIMER: Do not read the introduction by Peter Straub, at least not until reading the novel proper. I was halfway into it – the intro – before I realized my man Pete was discussing a ton of plot points for the book I hadn’t read yet which led me to slam the book closed and chuck it across the room. Thanks, Peter.)
It has been a long time since I have started and finished a book in the same day. I am a relatively slow reader so I have to really commit myself to Hit-Sticking my way through a novel, same-day style. There was no need to force my way through this one (it is under 200 pages, to be fair). I found it impossible to stop reading. It was almost as if I had bought the sales pitch of a charismatic new-movement-leader and I couldn’t say no…
…wait, where am I? DO I HAVE ALL OF MY DIGITS?
OK, I’m good. Last Days is completely gripping, and does not let up one bit at any point. Evenson has this way of laying everything bare, like he is transcribing his grocery list, except there is blood and guts and insane people all over the damn place. And I say that with reverence. His prose reminds me a little of Hemingway, but if Ernest died in the Zombie Apocalypse and then came back and wrote an even bloodier story than what he had just experienced.
Evenson’s prose is taught and smacks you in the face. He tells you what is happening and little else. So but you’re reading along and you come across something utterly gruesome and you pause and go wait, hang on, but why is this happening in this way? but before you can actually finish the question you are thrown through another brick wall and you just have to hang on as the words wash you downstream.
Our main character is ex-policeman Kline – he is most certainly not a ‘hero’ and probably not even an ‘antihero’ – and he is depressed as all get out all because he had to cut off his hand at the wrist while he was undercover and then shoot a guy. Like, get over it, man. Anyway, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the whole self-amputation thing happens before he gets mixed up in a crazy amputation cult. So, saddle up partner.
The book is actually two novellas stuck together, with the first being The Brotherhood of Mutilation (you should totally read this to your kids as a bedtime story.) It was received so well that Evenson finished out the story with the second novella, Last Days. This book will quite clearly be found under the horror section, and it is horrifying, but it really rejects categorization. At times I was gritting my teeth; other times I found myself chuckling to myself and then immediately questioning my humanity. It was a great experience.
So, Michael H, should I read this book?
by Michael H.
(EDITORS NOTE: Michael will be reviewing a multitude of books for us here at The Open Field, and TOP SHELF BOOKS will be a running theme. Stay tuned if you are looking for something new to read, enjoy literary review, or want to be smart for 5 minutes of your stupid day.)FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD