First of all, I love the cover of the book. The picture on the front is unsettling, a wee bit creepy, and definitely intriquing. The title of the book is written in shiny letters, and the cover itself is a matte picture. It's really cool, you kind of have to move the book around to read it. Joey Comeau, the author, is also the creator of a web comic called A Softer World, which is one of my favourites. I didn't realize it until after I read the book, tho, so don't worry about any bias I might have had. I received this book through ECW Press, because i'm a Shelf Monkey.
The description of the book on Amazon gives a little too much away right off the bat, but this sentence, I think, describes things well, without going too far.
"...a cantankerous old man, his powerfully stupid dog, a headless ghost, a lesbian crush and a few unsettling visits from Jackie's own dead mother, and you'll find that One Bloody Thing After Another is a different sort of horror novel from the ones you're used to. It's as sad and funny as it is frightening, and it is as much about the way families rely on each other as it is about blood being drooled on the carpet. Though, to be honest, there is a lot of blood being drooled on the carpet."
This book had me from the prologue, the "title" of which is "Ann's mother isn't feeling so good today". We find out that Ann and Margaret's mother is going for a job interview, which didn't go so well, because Ann's mother coughed up something bloody. E[...] Really? Seriously? This introduction, written so matter of factly that you might have to read it twice to see if you really read what you thought you read, reminds me a bit of Stephen King. You know how he just drops in these gross bits of horror so casually into the 'conversation' that you're having with him, that its not until you've shaken his hand and said 'see ya later' that you realize how gross it truly was.
The book follows Ann, Jackie and Charlie, as well as their families, through a short period of time in their lives. A period of time when Ann finds out how far she'll go to support her mom and sister, a time when Jackie finds out how her mom's death affects her, and a time when Charlie experiences living with his dog, losing his dog, and getting reunited with his dog.
This book has more layers than I thought it would. The first aspect of the book is about love and committment. The way Ann sticks by her family, goes way out of her comfort zone to protect and care for them is understandable. It's rare that you feel sympathetic for someone who does the kinds of things she does, but I did. I empathized for Ann. I might be reading too much into this, but I think there are many people who will find an aspect of themselves in Ann. (But hopefully not a piece of themselves in her mom...)
Jackie is a young girl, discovering that she's different from her peers in so many ways, not the least of which is her emerging sexuality. Charlie is a man who loves his dog, and is charged with helping a neighbour find out about her daughter's demise. This aspect of the book really reminds me of the way Robert Wiersema writes. There's such a sense of family and connectedness in this book, you realy feel like these are people that you might know, and might care for, just a bit.
The other aspect of the book is the abject horror. Live animals being fed to ravenous beasts chained up in the basement. A young girl with the ability to call up the ghost of her dead mother to help her escape from police custody. A headless ghost with a message for a loved one.
I absolutely reccommend this book. Maybe it's a novella, I've never quite understood the difference. In any case, its a quick and horrifying read, something to make you shiver in the middle of a sunny day. I see that the author, Joey Comeau will be reading from his book on April 27, 2010. He's the inaugaral guest at the event series "The Toronto Literary Salon". Sounds like something I'd like to hear. But I'm just a little afraid of this man.