Multiplex Fandango. Say it. Multi-plex Fan-dan-go.
It's beautiful, isn't it? Just rolls off the tongue.
It’s almost as beautiful and satisfying as the book you may now be holding in your hands, or reading a review about. What we’re seeing here is quite possibly the most comfortable, relaxed, and expert takeover that the horror genre has ever seen.
With Multiplex Fandango, Weston Ochse has created an incredible collection, and has given the reader one of the smoothest, most satisfying reads they could ever come across. To drive the point home, Joe Landsdale says in the intro that "This is a book that could almost have been written for me.", but I disagree - this book was written for anyone looking for imaginative, intelligent, and throughly awe-inspiring, but strangely uplifting scares that force the reader to think more than react.
Multiplex Fandango is subtitled "A Weston Ochse Reader" for good reason. This collection contains a comprehensive representation of short fiction and novellas by the Bram Stoker award winner and Pushcart Prize nominee... (read more)
Not much of a synopsis I know, but then, there really is no way to synopsize this brilliant work. That said...here we go.
There are 16 short stories and novellas presented herein, 6 of which were written for this volume, with each and every one just as, if not more, impressive as the last. Ochse's words read like the poetry of a madman - urgent and direct, at the same time as being beautifully timed and designed to evoke emotions from deep inside. The reader can't help but be absolutely enthralled by this wordsmith's grand visions and engaging dialogue. This is a book that is virtually impossible to put down.
Pieces like Tarzan Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Fugue on the Sea of Cortez, The Sad Last Love of Cary Grant, and Catfish Gods speak of the choices we make that define who we are in the end, and directions we take in life that lead us to those instances. Ochse really blasts the reader with a keen blend of realism, tainted with a strange and unrelenting sense of unease that shows exactly how much of our lives is spent choosing between what is right, and what just comes naturally - regardless of whether or not it hurts or hinders someone else. The characters in these pieces are all people that the reader can instantly identify with, as Ochse finds the essence of what it is to be human, and gently exploits it for the purpose of proving a point. The point being, in most cases, is that we are all responsible for what we create in our own world, regardless of the outside influences and how strange they might be.
Where the writer succeeds most is in stories like High Desert Come to Jesus, The Secret Lives of Heroes, and A Day in the Life of a Dust Bunny - which, when read are actually quite comedic, but are presented in a deathly serious tone. High Desert reads like the serial killer stories that have permeated the genre as of late, but with a brilliant and sinister twist that sets it completely apart at the same time. The idea of a person that actually creates the things in people that most find eternally disturbing, is brilliant. The brief length of the story is incredible in that Ochse packs so much into it, leaving the reader begging for more and more. I, for one, really hope that Ochse expands upon this character in a full length work. This story is highly recommended.
Ochse also proves himself quite capable of writing some brutal and disgusting scenes that deliver a violent slap in the face to the reader. I’m generally very hard to gross out, having read a lot of work that has really made me question how an author managed to get some scenes published and sold to the public, but there were moments in some of these stories that just attack without warning. Now, the beautiful part of this is that Ochse almost downplays these moments in order to affect the reader more. Though they’re few and far between, gore-hounds can rest assured that they are there. If you’re a reader that yearns for prose that pushes boundaries and kicks you when you’re down - you’ll find that mixed in here, along with a complete world that you might have been missing.
While all of these stories are brilliant in their own way, there are some that stand out as the leaders of the pack. Big Rock Candy Mountain is a sobering, semi-political tale encompassed in a hallucinogenic yarn that entertains from start to finish; Hiroshima Falling starts off brooding and dark, almost overwhelming the reader before launching into a bizarro-styled story that picks up the pace, amps up the strange, and ultimately cements the author as a force to be reckoned with; The Crossing of Aldo Ray is, bar none, one of the best zombie stories I have ever read, taking a different path than most and treating the reader to a much needed change of pace in zombie literature; City of Joy is, as the author mentions in his notes after the story, a science fiction tale at heart, but holds enough power in itself that it becomes something of an emotional horror story that speaks to the innocence in all of us; 22 Stains in the Jesus Pool introduces the reader to Ochse’s expert knowledge of the inner workings of religious theory and cult thinking, but also invites the reader to meet one character that is so incredibly complex and, as it turns out, an unintentional villain in disguise.
The absolute shining achievement has to go to the last story - Redemption Roadshow. I've read this story before as a chapbook that was released by Burning Effigy Press, and am still blown away by it every time. This is not only a story that is completely re-readable, but is also haunting, terrifying, introspective, and downright impressive. This is easily one of my favorite reads of all time, and will continue to be etched into my mind for years to come. Ochse is writing on a Peter Straub level with this one. Absolutely brilliant.
Multiplex Fandango is an absolute must-have for anyone who calls themselves a collector of horror literature. No one should be without this book. No one. I am highly recommending this book to everyone.
Multiplex Fandango will be available for pre-order from Dark Regions Press in May '11.