Book Reviews

Riding the Centipede by John Claude Smith

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
by John Claude Smith
Published by Omnium Gatherum on 6.29.15
Genres: Crime/Serial Killer, Dark Fiction, Extreme Horror, Fiction, Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Pages: 241
Format: eBook
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Private Investigator Terrance Blake spends most of his days shadowed by an event from his past, while dismantling the lives of those driven by the masochistic need to confirm the lies they deny are cold, hard truths, until Hollywood socialite Jane Teagarden calls him for only the third time in years with news on the whereabouts of her runaway brother, Marlon.

Marlon Teagarden has been a ghost for ten years, traveling through the underbelly of society as a means of blotting out a past allegedly rife with child abuse, until he is chosen to Ride the Centipede, leading to the ultimate experience, courtesy of literary translator of languages and drug-infused visions from inner and outer space, William S. Burroughs.

Just your average road trip chase through the dark frontier of addiction and alternative realities gone sideways.

Not quite.

Also along for the ride, at the behest of a mysterious employer, is a nuclear-infused force of corrupt nature, “some kind of new breed of human and radiation, a blotch, an aberration, cancer with teeth.”

Allow me to introduce you to Rudolf.

Rudolf Chernobyl.

Let the games begin…

I don’t know what the fuck that was, but I liked it!

I read John Claude’s collection Autumn in the Abyss and loved it. When he contacted me to see if I would like to read this book, I jumped on the chance and I’m glad I did.

Jane Teagarden hires a man named Terrance Blake to find her missing brother, Marlon. Marlon is riding the heavy drug train-the heaviest of which is “Riding the Centipede”, which is only allowed for one lucky (?) person a year, and this year it’s Marlon. The drug is only obtainable through William Burroughs who is supposed to be dead, and there’s a radiation infused freak who’s on the trail of both Marlon and the centipede. Did you get all that? I warned you that it’s fucked up.

John Claude’s writing is vivid while his descriptions are brief and to the point. He’s able to draw beautiful, sometimes horrible, pictures in only a few words. It’s amazing, really. His characters are beautifully rendered-all of them complex, multi-layered and flat out interesting. By far the most interesting character to me was Rudolf Chernobyl. Born out of the nuclear disaster with his glowing eyes and sparks flying from his fingertips, how could anyone not be mesmerized? A truly original creation that I won’t soon forget.

This book is constantly referencing other books, movies, songs, authors, etc… I’m sure I didn’t catch them all, (I’m not familiar with the work of Burroughs, so I’m sure I missed a lot there). Sometimes that makes the reader feel left out-when they’re not familiar with everything, but this author manages to do it without alienating the reader. I’m sure someone more familiar with Burroughs’ work would get more out of it, but those unfamiliar with it, like me, can still enjoy this story.

With hints of Clive Barker, (The Ratman really felt like something Barker could have created), Hunter S. Thompson, (“Buy the ticket, take the ride”), and flavors all his own, John Claude Smith ultimately delivers the goods with this story. It’s imaginative, original, drug infused what the fuckery and I loved every second of it. Bravo Mr. Smith!

Highly recommended for fans of trippy, bizarre dark fiction.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is it.*

About John Claude Smith

John Claude Smith is a writer of dark speculative fiction, everything from hardcore horror to magic realism, weird fiction, and a few unknown off-ramps along the way. He has two collections: Autumn in the Abyss was published in March of 2014 by Omnium Gatherum, one of the premier dark fiction/horror small presses. It is garnering much positive attention, including blurbs/reviews from S.P. Miskowski, John Langan, Joe Mynhardt, and John Everson. The Amazon reviews are fantastic, too; check them out. His first collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me, is also available for Kindle and other assorted e-readers.

His blog, The Wilderness Within, deals with writing (of course), music, art–whatever strikes his fancy.
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