A few months ago I read a book called The Worms by Al Sarrantonio on a whim. I really liked it, so I decided to read more of his stuff.
Spectra – 1989
A bunch of evil werewolves from the moon land on Earth and start attacking humanuty, eating most but turning plenty of us into werewolves too. After witnessing the transformation of his son and death of his wife, a sensitive poet finds himself tagging along with a crew of scientists on their way to a military base to perform some kind of drastic rescue mission, the nature of which the scientists are hesitant to discuss. All I’ll say is that it involves a really big rocket and some REALLY big bombs.
Honestly, if you don’t want to read this after hearing that and seeing this book’s cover, you’re a lost cause. Rockets and moon-wolves. Cool!
Leisure Books – 2003 (Originally published 1999)
I had heard that Sarrantonio was a better short story writer than a novel writer, so I decided to check out his first story collection, Toybox. The person who told me that Sarrantonio’s stories were worth reading also mentioned a great likeness to the work of Ray Bradbury. Aside from Fahrenheit 451 and a couple of short stories, I hadn’t actually read anything by Bradbury when I started this. It often takes me a while to get through short story collections. I read one or two stories from different collections when I’m between novels. While I was dipping in and out of Toybox, one of the novels I read was Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. This clarified for me what my friend had meant with his comparison. I soon thereafter read a couple of collections of Bradbury’s creepier stories, and this further confirmed my impressions. Sarrantonio’s short stories are very, very Bradburyian. Nearly all of them involve children, Halloween and carnivals. Some of the stories in this collection use almost identical premises to Bradbury tales. ‘Father Dear’, one of the stories in here is about a kid whose dad keeps him inside his house and lies to him about everything. There’s a Bradbury story called ‘Jack in the Box’ about a kid whose mom does almost the exact same thing. Whatever though, it’s hardly a bad thing to be compared to Ray Bradbury. (I’ve been loving the Ray recently.) I enjoyed Toybox plenty. ‘Pumpkin Head’ and ‘The Corn Dolly’ were probably my favourites in here, but it’s all pretty good.
Bantam – 1992
This is an epic post apocalyptic novel in which the last remaining good guys on Earth are drawn together by dreams/psychic visions. (I mean epic in the literal sense here too.) It’s basically the same thing as Stephen King’s The Stand except the disease and bad guys in this book are the same thing. They’re skeletons. The skeletons of every human (and animal) that ever lived have risen from their graves and they are really angry with humanity.
There’s 4 narratives running throughout the book. The bulk of the story centers on a Cambodian politician stuck in Russia and an American girl who is unable to speak making their ways across their respective continents to meet eachother. The rest of the tale is told from the perspective of the risen Abraham Lincoln and Roger Garbage, a music industry cokehead who the skeletons keep alive for the purposes of arranging the biggest rock festival ever.
The novel is absurd, and there’s many little inconsistences and plot holes throughout the story, but there’s a scene in this book where the Beatles (in skeleton form) get back together to perform, so I found it pretty easy to ignore the problems and just go with it. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be read for fun, so there’s no need to dissect it like a college professor. Although it’s about skeletons, the length and scope of the work make it more a fantasy than a horror novel, and while I enjoyed it well enough, it was probably my least favourite of the books I’ve read by Sarrantonio. (It’s not bad. I just really like short books at the moment.)
I can’t say that I was truly blown away by any of the books I’ve read by Al Sarrantonio, but I was entertained by all of them. They’re imaginative, fun and well written. I’ve read 4 of his books in the last 4 months, so I’ll give him a break for a while, but I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.