Review Index

MARK MIRABELLO (Mandrake of Oxford; 2001)

A very strange little novel that’s obtained some minor popularity on the underground circuit.  A good book?  Not entirely.  An interesting one?  Most definitely!

    The author is a Ph.D. certified history professor who frames the proceedings as a dissertation on Transhumans, a race of cannibalistic grotesques.  It seems this amoral sunlight-hating species lords over us from under the Earth, harvesting people as food while keeping the truth of their existence a secret.  They use telepathic power to attain their goals, along with traitorous humans they ply with great wealth to help keep the rest of us in line.

    Mirabello claims he learned this info from a strange woman who imparted a manuscript whose contents take up much of the following narrative.  In it the woman claims to have inadvertently summoned three of the Transhumans, who appeared in the guises of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and St. Anne, the mother of Mary.  These three kept the woman (then a girl) and a troublemaking friend in an underground cage for several years, where they were used as breeders for the Transhumans.  Eventually the two escaped and--what luck!--found a book that minutely explains the transhumans’ bloody history.

    As a novel THE CANNIBAL WITHIN isn’t much.  It relies overmuch on coincidence and contains quite a few gaping plot holes (we never learn why the woman ever thought to contact Mirabello in the first place) and clumsily integrated dream sequences.  What professor Mark Mirabello has come up with is more in line with a thesis paper complete with numerous subheadings for each chapter and an overpowering concentration on his central concept, which trumps things like character development and narrative ingenuity.

    In keeping with the collegiate nature of the book, the language is stiff and academic and the tone unwaveringly sober and detached.  The professorial air is furthered by a remarkably erudite series of literary references filling us in on the Transhumans’ links to various historical and religious texts.  Say what you like about Mr. Mirabello, but he’s definitely done his homework.

    The details of Mirabello’s book, of course, include cannibalism, incest, rape and just about every outrage you can think of.  Yet it’s all described with such unwavering conviction (sample line: “Since genital orgasm is the most powerful of all feelings, it must be the greatest of all sicknesses”) that you might just find yourself wondering how much of this tall tale is actually real.