somewhere in the skuzzier regions of Astoria, Oregon a failed musician is
afflicted with a permanent erection while having to contend with human-sized
preying mantises, which include the hero’s own wife. She’s the indirect cause
of his erectile dilemma, as downing four Viagra pills is the only way he can
have sex with her. Apparently there’s an alien invasion afoot that causes
people to morph into cannibalistic bugs, with the protagonist one of the few
remaining humans...although he’s not sure if he isn’t hallucinating the whole
thing (neither are we!).
I’d expect nothing less from Ron Dakron, a writer I’ve grown fond of over the years. His stand-out novels include the eccentric thriller INFRA, about a dreamlike trek through Europe, and HAMMERS, a satiric account of people metamorphosing into hammerhead sharks. Dakron favors heavily self conscious, slip-streamy prose (particularly in his second novel NEWT, which I haven’t been able to get through), yet his is among the very small cadre of experimental fiction whose substance actually matches its style.
MANTIDS isn’t the best of Darkon’s books (INFRA gets that distinction), but is the most user-friendly: it’s short and fast moving, and contains a linear narrative with a beginning, middle and end.
has also lightened up on the experimentation. Yes, his prose is still quite
self conscious, and not everyone will have patience with lines like “that
skin husk next to the fridge, the split splattered body that her new bug self
popped out of--its ripped back still oozing gray biomuck, the limbs tangled into
a skin pretzel--whoa!” But the book is lively and funny, with a spot-on
portrayal of the Pacific Northwest punk subculture amid all the insanity--and
really: perverted sex, punk rock, Viagra, mutant insects, cannibalism, perpetual
erections...what more could you possibly want?