I WILL RISE
Books like this are the reason I slog through so many ďundergroundĒ horror novels, most of which leave me cold. The fact is thereís usually a damn good reason major publishers pass on those books that debut in expensive trade paperback editions from companies youíve never heard of, yet every once in a while an indie horror novel appears that actually lives up to its billing. Such is the case with I WILL RISE, from the Canadian outfit Lachesis (who also issued the book in multiple ebook formats--go to www.lachesispublishing.com). Itís the first novel by Michael Louis Calvillo, and one of the most promising debuts Iíve encountered in some time. Why the major publishers passed up this mind-bender Iíll never understand.
Than again, maybe I do have an idea of why Calvilloís book went the indie route. Itís everything weíve come to expect from underground horror and then some: defiantly idiosyncratic, shocking, subversive, ambitious and one-of-a-kind. A Beach Read it definitely isnít! I sincerely hope I WILL RISE doesnít get lost in the horror shuffle, as itís a cult waiting to be born.
Told in a first person stream-of-consciousness style vaguely reminiscent of
authors like Chuck Palahniuk and Kathe Koja, itís the warped tale of the
thirtyish Charles, a severely alienated, ugly, maladjusted virgin whoís prone to
seizures and suffers from a weird hole in his left palm, an apparent birth
defect. When we first meet Charles heís working in a restaurant he plans to
sabotage by spiking its flour supply with Ajax, being a perpetually
self-pitying, revenge-seeking loser. After about fifty pages Charlesís
relentlessly anti-social mindset becomes positively suffocating (this guy makes
Holden Caulfield seem like a choirboy), but then there occurs a most unexpected
Charles is assisted in his quest by Annabelle, an equally disenfranchised misanthrope who contacts Charles through her dreams, projecting a three dimensional image of herself as a hot, scantily clad babe to help him along. In real life, however, Annabelle is a dumpy blind woman who lives in squalor with her mother; her interaction with Charles humanizes him somewhat, giving him second thoughts about his mission to destroy humanity. This newfound compassion, while directly inspired by Annabelle, complicates their burgeoning romance somewhat, as she remains hellbent on exterminating the human virus, and furthermore canít be touched by Charles lest she be killed like everyone else he comes into contact with.
Thereís much more, of course, in an ever-mutating narrative that continually ratchets up the weirdness factor with a succession of impossible-to-predict twists and bizarre characters. They include a five-year-old genius with ESP who accompanies Charles during the early stages of his odyssey, a gaggle of crazies who learn of Charlesí mission through shared dreams and become determined to do something about it, and Allen Michael, a slimy TV personality who becomes the focus of Charlesí rampage, especially after he discovers Annabelle may have been psychically two-timing him with Michael.
What precisely should we make of this wild ride? Frankly Iím not sure.
What I do know is that itís written with real assurance and a slip-streamy,
pop-inflected vernacular that often gives it the feel of a psychotic
nightmare--or perhaps a near-death hallucination a la William Goldingís
PINCER MARTIN or J.G. Ballardís UNLIMITED DREAM COMPANY. Whatever it is, I WILL
RISE is unique and oddly compelling, one of the finest, most challenging novels
of 2007. Donít let it pass you by.