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Berzerkoids Paperback – 11 Apr 2016
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Loosely centered around the antics of toys--as a sort of anti-Toy Story--this collection also features several stories only tangentially connected to its titular themes. It's thematic in the way Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is conceptual: some stories follow the overall theme and some could fit into any collection. But one thing is certain: every story in this collection is entertaining.
Say what you want about MP Johnson--and why the hell would you say anything negative, you prick?--but he has a wicked, pop-culture-infused, and, at times, minimalist imagination and sense of humor. His approach to the short form reminded me--as improbable as some readers might find this--of the best short works of Hemingway, as well as Joyce's stories in Dubliners. Some are only a couple pages long; some build slowly, then hit you like a freight train; but none overstay their welcome, which is, to my mind, the strength of this collection.
The stories hit hard and fast. Realized worlds are developed within the matter of a few pages, characters are presented and developed well, situations go from weird to weirder, and the stories end, often without resolution, often without explanation--a sign of a confident writer.
Johnson doesn't waste paragraphs or pages justifying the worlds he's creating; instead, he drops you into them, creates weird or funny or intense situations, and leaves you wanting more. But there's little confusion. You're never dropped into a world in which you are confused or lost. You're always viewing the worlds through the eyes of characters you care about, or through characters or high concepts so weird or funny or clever that you assent to take the trip, and oftentimes you can't anticipate where you're headed.
This is a great collection of stories by a strong and confident writer.
Heck, I think I still have some of these kinds of toys stored somewhere in my stuff. Bright neon blue/pink/orange/green, that rubbery plastic, a menagerie of grotesqueries right out of cartoon marketing department nightmares. Not actual Berzerkoids, sadly, but I’d buy those if I could.
This book is the literary equivalent of getting a whole case of blind packs, and tearing them open in a gluttonous chortling binge of glee. You know each one will be a different, unique, wonderfully horrific experience … disturbing, even damaging, but oh-so-addictive.
A scan of the table of contents alone is brain-bending. “The Final Failure of a Professional Small Animal Inside-Outer.” “I Summoned a Demon with a Vagina Mouth.” “Looking Fab and Fighting Scabs.” “I Think I’ll Donate this Severed Head to the Salvation Army.” Those are titles, a sampling of story titles, just the TITLES. The stories more than do them justice.
You will find vengeful teddy bears, alien time travel, drag queens, sharks, severed fingers and diabolical manicures, punks, bugs, and of course, plenty of Berzerkoids. It’s every bit as wacky and weird as anybody could want, and then some.