I read an interview with Ray Bradbury where he decried what he saw as the misinterpretations of his novel Fahrenheit 451. To him the book wasn't about censorship or book burning. It was about the pervasive nature of television. He also wrote an extremely prophetic short story titled "The Murderer," about a man who murders his house. In this story advertisements were projected on clouds in the sky and everyone had two-way wrist radios which they used to keep in constant communication with each other: "I'm at 113th now... 112th..." Sound familiar?
Today the reality has far surpassed that story. People update social media about every little movement they make, and television and video reality are even more insidious than Mr. Bradbury imagined. We now are updated on world events constantly, no matter where we are, via smartphones and tablet computers. Celebrities are defined solely as whoever can get screen time. It matters not what, if anything, they've done to get there, it only matters that they are.
In Garrett Cook's Murderland serial killers are idolized by society. Their deeds are followed obsessively by television pundits and the adoring public. A subculture has grown up around this phenomena, called "Reap." Laws are created to allow this activity to flourish, including designated "safe zones' where killers can practice their trade without fear of persecution. Fans of the top rated serial killers celebrate each new kill on social media and television. Programs glorify their deeds.
The culture of Murderland is violent and mirrors our own violent society and its decadent obsessions; but Murderland isn't about how violent the world has become. It's about the pervasive nature of media and how it corrupts. It corrupts absolutely.
At the heart of Murderland is Jeremy Jenkins. Jeremy doesn't like what he sees and he's just enough insane to believe he can do something about it, that he can change the world. His methods are extreme- to outdo the serial killers, he'll kill THEM, turn their own twisted reality back on themselves. It's a hopeless task, impossible, Herculean; but it's Jeremy's fate to see it through to the end.
The three sections of Murderland comprise a true Homeric epic. In the first section we are shown the terrible world Jeremy lives in, the world that if we look at it honestly, is really our own world. We meet all the principal characters, the serial killers, the pundits, the pawns, and Jeremy's beloved Cass. In the second section Jeremy goes on a bit of a spiritual quest and comes to understand his true purpose. In the final section the flames are ignited and all hell breaks loose. Jeremy, like a great epic hero must journey to the underworld and be reborn in order to triumph.
Murderland is a compelling work, engrossing and consuming from beginning to end. Full of characters we love and characters we hate, with social satire of the highest order. It filled me with fear at times, filled me with wonder at other times, made me look at the world around me with a critical eye, and even revealed things about myself to me. It's a rare book that came shake you up like that. Fortunately Cook is up to the task, and gives us something we can hold onto: the relationship between Jeremy and his lover Cass. This one element grounds the book emotionally, allowing us that one ray of hope that no matter how screwed up the world around us gets, love still exists, a love that can see us through anything.
Who do I recommend this book to? EVERY FLIPPING BODY. This is an important book, ripped from the soul of a complex, caring visionary. Read it, please.