REVIEWS: Rotten Little Animals & Archelon Ranch

ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS by Kevin Shamel
Published 2009 – Eraserhead Press/108p/Trade Paperback
More Information and Purchasing Options HERE
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Synopsis:
Animals are people too! And that is messed up. So they have independent cinema.
See what happens when an animal film crew kidnap a human boy and make a movie of the abduction. Read things about Nature that just aren’t natural. Fear your pets from this day forward. With zombie-cat attacks, gun-blasting massacres, drugged-out puppet shows, exploding car chases, camera-chickens, bat acrobats, wild sex, martini parties and torture, Rotten Little Animals is a crazy ride through the underground animal film scene and on to the Big Time.
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Kevin Shamel is a newcomer to the bizarro genre, this being his first published work of any length. Eraserhead has published this first book of his under the New Bizarro Author Series, an imprint to allow new authors a chance to show their stuff. The catch is that if the book doesn’t sell enough copies (no number specified), then Eraserhead will never again publish that author. This is all fine and good until you read RLA. You then realise that this author is good. Very good. All of a sudden you find yourself wondering how many does he need to sell to make sure he gets another deal? I wondered. And I said to myself I will find this out, and I will do my best to ensure he sells this many copies, because this author is good!
RLA deals with the exploits of a group of animals, talking animals, that are making an animal horror flick. This apparently goes on all the time in the animal world, as they have their own society and their own secret world. The secret is kept by The Law. The Law states that any human that discovers this little factoid is killed.
This group of zombie-film makers are discovered by a boy, and all Hell breaks loose. The boy is captured and then exploited to make a movie about making a movie. This is the story of that boy’s experiences and the ramifications of his discovery. The book with the story of the movie of the making of the movie, if you will…
The twists and turns that eventuate throughout the story take us on a thrilling and degrading journey into the foul and disgusting minds of some very cute little animals.
Now I hate them all. I hate cats, I hate dogs, I especially hate pigs and I most likely hate marsupials, although none featured in RLA.
Thanks, Kevin Shamel. I used to love animals. Now I don’t. At least not the ones you write about.
7.5/10


ARCHELON RANCH by Garrett Cook
Published 2009 – LegumeMan Books/ 116p/Trade Paperback
More Information and Purchasing Options HERE
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Synopsis:
In an overgrown, primeval, jungle-city state, Bernard is a test subject for science experiments. His father and Professor Sagramour have been injecting him with hallucinogenic mud and reality affirming drugs so that one day man will be immune to the insanity inducing, zombifying sentient green mud that is choking the suburbs. But Bernard is beginning to display side effects. Experiencing greater and greater levels of Objectivity cause his consciousness to become one with entities as diverse as pterosaurs and martinis. In the mind of the tyrannosaurus he hears the call of Archelon Ranch, a primal paradise like no other. Will Bernard’s unique talents be enough to get him out of the senseless prehistoric cyberpunk city or will dinosaurs, Sagramour’s Standardizers and the desire to lose himself in other entities be too much?

Alternate Synopsis:
My name is Clyde and this is not my story. I’m supposed to be an extra in my brother’s life. In fact if I hadn’t been sneaky enough to assert my existence on the page, I wouldn’t exist at all. I was a ne’erdowell raptor spray salesman, trading bananas and heroin to orangutans and selling my extra raptor gas to school children. Then one day, I discovered Narrativism. I realized that we were all living inside a book, a book by pretentious Bizarro pulp hack and perennial sad-sack, Garrett Cook. And after that, I discovered something else: that my oft-tortured brother, Bernard, was actually the protagonist of this book, Archelon Ranch. So, I help the guy escape and what does he do? He forgets me, that’s what! Well, I’m not going to take it. This is not my story, but my story’s going to eat this story alive. I’ll be the one at Archelon Ranch and Garrett Cook and Bernard and their plans…
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Archelon Ranch is a story within (or should that be without?) a story. On the first level, you have Bernard, a quiet and inoffensive protagonist who is subjected to horrifying bouts of Objectivity due to his father’s insane experiments. And then you have Clyde, the narrator. His story blends seamlessly with Bernard’s, and both don’t so much cross over into the bizarre as begin there and get progressively more strange as they go. Both surreal and strange, AR strikes a nice balance between the two stories intertwined within this slim volume. Bernard’s story is the main drama, with Clyde’s almost being the story of the structure of Bernard’s story. Clyde is concerned with narrative and the finale, with reaching the mythical realm of the title, Archelon Ranch, a place of peace and tranquillity, where raptors and t-rex don’t stalk the streets seeking fodder and validation and where Police Triceratops aren’t needed to protect the populace from the predations of various ravenous carnivores. Clyde discovers a secret early on in the tale, something that causes him to take unforeseen action to determine the fates of both himself and his brother, Bernard.
The self-insertion by the author jumped me out of the flow a little, but it was handled well and wasn’t self-promoting at all, unlike most examples of this technique.
Even though AR comes across as a little pretentious and aimed at the literati, I enjoyed this book immensely once I got my head around the layers of the story and how they all slung together. I think others will enjoy this as much as I did. 7/10
Cook is the author of the ongoing Murderland series, with the first two instalments out now, and the bizarro-noir Jimmy Plush: Teddybear Detective, also available now.
Keep an eye on this writer, he is going places. Let’s just hope it’s not the Sunnybrook Asylum…

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