Monday 24 September 2012

Book Review : The Bighead by Edward Lee

Jesus, where to begin with a novel like THE BIGHEAD....

Anyone who's dabbled in the fetid, murky waters of author, 'Edward Lee' will generally know what to expect with this one.The man is not celebrated for his sense of restraint. In fact, of all the modern generation of underground horror writers, Lee is perhaps the most notorious. His deeply alarming imagination and total lack of respect for literary censorship has seen him produce some of the most disgusting and morally reprehensible works of all time; the sort of shit that would give Marquis De Sade a case of the flaccid Williams.

A brief history for the uninitiated...

Lee could be considered part of the second wave of horror that began in earnest with the late, great Richard Laymon and his pals. A form of literary horror that came to be termed, 'Splatterpunk'. In this most infamous of genres, nothing is left to the imagination. Theres an unspoken contract between writer and reader that the work will most probably be upsetting, will definitely be violent in content and graphic in the extreme, and on rare occasions, may leave you questioning your worth as a human being. You may come to regard yourself as something of a pervert for enjoying this stuff.

Without stroking my own chain, I must state that I have read a huge number of the books that have grown from this artistic ideal. Laymon, Keene, Ketchum, Smith, Little and many more have reshaped the way I think of horror fiction. Stephen King and the like seem like kids stuff these days. Literally. Their work feels like a rights of passage before you get to the really fun stuff. I love King, Koontz and chums, but I prefer a harder kind of horror.

Edward Lee is as hard as it gets. He's a man gifted with a rare sense of the grotesque, yet one bolstered by a vision that is often grandiose and epic in scope. In CITY INFERNAL and its sequels, he envisioned hell as a city; too vast to truly comprehend and filled with terrors and tortures that make the christian hell look like Disneyland. Also of note, he's a man with an undying love for the works of H.P.Lovecraft, and like many of his peers, he often dives headfirst into the mythos created by the great man, while taking it further...much, much further. These are fine tools to have in your armory if your heading out into the world as a horror author. Lee sits at the top of the pile.

I've read a great deal of his work, and going into THE BIGHEAD I thought I knew what to expect. But with this charming little tome, the man goes above and beyond anything I've ever come across in the genre, by far. THE BIGHEAD is the single most demented, disgusting and unforgivable piece of exploitation fiction to ever break free unrestrained from the human psyche. Suffice to say, I loved it.

It's the only novel I can recall with which I've stated to myself, that,  'I ain't reading one more page of this sickening filth!', only to throw the book down, stare at it in disgust for a few minutes, then pick the fucker back up and start reading again. When a piece of art can disgust and attract me simultaneously to its dark dementia, I have to hold it in respect.

I wont give away any of the countless scenes of unthinkable perversions in this book, but I will say that it is guaranteed to shock even the most hardened reader. Its balls are huge, the attention to detail is sick-bag-on-standby stuff, and the relentlessness of the darkness that pervades the tale is exhausting, but its just so damn well written that you cant let it go.

Herein ye shall find a giant mutated hillbilly/monster, (who's sexual and culinary habits are unspeakable even in this here Hotel), a pair of demonic Nun's sent from the pits of hell to habitually torture and rape, a helpless priest in the most vile ways ever written, a sex-addict who can't get enough junk in her trunk, two moonshine trading serial killers who know no limits, a self mutilator who goes to ridiculous extremes, and behind and surrounding it all, a dark, demonic mystery as to who the 'Bighead' is, and  how this disparate group of fuck-ups, psycho's and devils all relate. Its sheer brilliance.

The gore, of course, is often almost unbearable, and takes up a huge chunk of the narrative, but its all for a purpose which will not become clear lest the reader mans up and trudges along till the climax. Hell, Its not like the journey ain't fun. Its so sick and twisted that its often laugh out loud. Hopefully, your not taking this stuff too seriously. The explicit violence is smartly balanced with a sly, degenerate wit that manages to make the whole thing not only bearable, but hugely enjoyable. There are so many twists and turns here, in what seems to be a simple tale, that your left in no doubt by the novels heartless, darkly humorous finale, that what you just suffered through was a work of unmitigated genius. Were this nothing other than extreme gore and violence, it would simply lay claim to the most disgusting horror book ever written. A sort of 'Snuff Novel', if you will. But with Lee's precision storytelling, a deeply involving mystery, and some fascinating and perfectly realized characters, the whole thing becomes nothing less than a classic of its time.

Most wont be able to handle Edward Lee's THE BIGHEAD. Its his most repulsive work, after all, and that's no small feat considering the mans other tales. Though in many ways, its his most accomplished work also, and boasts his most memorable characters, and scenes, (oh, how I wish those scenes were less fucking memorable).

Those of you who take up the gauntlet and manage to read the damn thing will most likely feel ashamed of yourselves for doing so. Questions will arise in your soul as to what the fuck you were thinking. You may have to make some form of atonement for enjoying such a perverted work of the devil. You may pray for salvation for your rotten eternal spirit.

But when all is said and done, and you somehow convince yourself once again that your a good and moral person, the chances are you'll find yourself looking up at your bookshelf, seeing that damn disgusting book sat atop your pile, and without knowing, a smile will bloom on your face. You made it out in one piece.

Perhaps you'll make it out just fine the second time, too...


No comments:

Post a Comment