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3.9 out of 5 stars
8
Dermaphoria
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on 30 April 2013
A good read with an inventive style though not as good as The Contortionist's Handbook.
As with TCH I found that the main character wasn't inherently likeable; however, the gripping plot makes you want to read on and unravel the mystery as he does.
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on 23 July 2015
Haunting, MUST read.
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on 1 December 2016
Great read. Arrived early, exactly as described...
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on 19 July 2009
Having read "A Contortionist's Handbook" (a very fine book indeed) I was looking forward to this.

To start with the setup seems similar - first person narration from someone operating 'outside the law' - A flawed 'hero' trying to get their act together. Perhaps love will save them?

But this book then veers away from Clevenger's last, in that the narrator has a very shaky grasp of reality, as opposed to the obsessively detailed and exact 'Contortionist'. This happens to the extent that, for the first half of the book, the narrator's brain is clearly mush. Unfortunately for the reader Clevenger writes about this quite accurately, in that it does smack of having a circular discussion with an acid casualty, in that you can understand what they say but without that emotional experience it is difficult to empathise, thus it gets a bit dull. For the second half (as his thinking begins to get more focused) the reader is left to reflect how the new information colours that given in the first half (symbolism, etc.) while a plot starts to develop. Then, just when our main-man is nearing lucidity, it is all over.

In all it is a frustrating book as it takes so long to get to know enough to form any attachment to the narrator, that by the time you (and he) work out what the story is, it ends. I imagine that this is a very deliberate device but I was not fond of it.

Having said this I would have been far more forgiving had Clevenger's first book not been so great. I will still certainly read his next.
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on 15 July 2006
The writing in this LA crime novel of drug abuse and memory loss is certainly arresting. Clevenger's protaganist begins the story having had his brains fried after what appears to have been a seriously bad trip, and his body fried in a house-fire into the bargain. As if that weren't enough, the LA police suspect him of being the king-pin in a major narcotics gang, which is spreading its tentacles up and down the West Coast.

With all his normal points of reference erased, the protaganist sees most of the world around him as a series of bizarre hallucinations (or misapprehensions, would be more accurate). He sets out to re-discover who he is and what happened, and in the process uncovers various dark dealings and double-crosses.

The problem with the book is that it is too self-consciously hip for its own good. The story is thin, and bundles up too quickly at the end. The flights of descriptive fancy are too many, holding up the story as well as being frequently incomprehensible. And, the hints at profundity are just like the profundity one discovers when high as a kite: i.e. the kind that doesn't stand up to much scrutiny in the cold light of day.

If you enjoy weird and imaginitive prose, this book will delight. But if style over substance irritates you, then it is probably best avoided.
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on 10 April 2008
One of my favourite books. Beautifully written, engaging characters. Leaves a lot of interpretation to the reader, so can be read again and again. More complex than the Contortionist's handbook- be prepared to invest in this book to get something out of it.
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on 10 March 2007
What so intrigued me going into this novel is the difference in the protag in regard to the Handbook's Vincent. Currently, Eric Ashworth is not so bright. in fact, through the novel, he has practically no memory. He wakes up heavily bandaged, scratching and in pain, and then things started getting bad. The prose structure is absolutely amazing -- you could tell the author put a great deal of time into it. The images, fascinating. The character confused. And when he started dissecting the roach machines, oh I about died.. This is more than mere style. this is a novel in every sense; an adventure, an experience. So seldom does an author come along that really breaks through the barriers. Clev seems to write as if he's running out of air, no rock is unturned. unless it's a pretty boring looking rock. what i mean is, he has instincts. absolutely, yes, i recommend this book. -kabol
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on 28 February 2007
I agree with Charlie. This book is terrible. I enjoyed the Contortionists Handbook and was looking forward to reading Clevenger's next book.

Sadly this really is style over substance in the worst way. Reading this book is like being forced to listen to other people's rambling descriptions of dreams they once had but now can't quite remember.

Easy to put down, frustrating, unsatisfying, indulgent nonsense. Shame on you Clevenger.
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