I think that one of the main points that I’ve come away with is how overwhelming and insipid technology can be, and what highs and lows it can inspire in us. This is communicated to us not through the narrative, but through the often scattershot delivery that permeates the whole work. The short stories are well conceived, but I never really knew who to root for or identify with, as I found the protagonists as awful as the antagonists (as people, not in how the characters were constructed), with none gaining my interest save one, which I’ll get to later. About halfway through the whole thing I found myself getting more invested and thought I had a handle on where things were going, but in short order everything seemed to go skipping off the rails once again. ,
As far as the structure of the piece overall, I was thrown by language choices made throughout. The first thing was the shortening of them to ‘em. I have no problem with this language choice on its own, but it was never consistent. I thought at first that it was to help give voice to characters, to flesh it out for the reader, but it appeared in non-dialogue as well, and in no place was it used consistently whether in a character’s speech or in the narrative. In fact, one character (the maniacal Amadeus) uses both in the same sentence. It’s hard to follow when such a specific choice is not applied with any sense of pattern to inform or engage with the audience. There were other odd choices, particularly with the slur, "retard," that - had it remained in the dialogue of a character - could have been excused as a developmental instrument, but this word was used in various points without being spoken by a character.
Johnson’s story is well told, but I never managed to find myself engaged with a majority of the characters. (To be honest, some you don’t want to.) E.verything felt clinical and detached. This made for a good analysis of what was being said, but I didn’t really feel it. Truth be told, there are some incredibly deep and disturbing thoughts presented here; it’s a carnival show of atrocities that horror fans would love. It may have been personal preference keeping me from engaging too directly with it, but, for me, it was like going through a haunted house with the lights on. The things being done were awful, but I was never pulled into the heart-pounding illusion.
In the whole of the book, there is a story that I found not only interesting and engaging, but something that spoke to something very deep inside of me and I think something that will stay with me for a very long time. In the story “Going Home Again,” a man named Chuck is offered a choice to “trade all of his tomorrows” for a select number of his yesterdays. I’m quoting because I found a wonderful voice to this story that continued throughout the tale and stood head and shoulders above the rest. This story has the ubiquitous horror slant, but coupled with a wistful and thought-provoking sensibility. It’s the lightning in a bottle that I hoped the whole book would build off of. It’s a phenomenal read all its own, and I recommend the whole book just on its strength alone.
Though this wasn’t my personal cup of tea, horror fans will certainly be treated to very graphic and detailed visions of awfulness. There’s a gibbering madness that lurks on almost every page, and the depth of thought and depravity you’ll encounter is remarkable.
Share the stories that move you.