Published by Independent Publishing on 3/8/12
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Twenty year old Ford Fischer is a serial slasher desperately trying to resist the lure of the blade. After taking a life, Ford's regret consumes him, leading him to self-mutilate his hand in hopes of preventing further mayhem. All the while a series of family issues threaten to sidetrack his quest for mental stability. His drug abusing mother disappears after an argument between her and Ford; leaving him sole caretaker of his transgender parent, whose life is slowly deteriorating from a mysterious illness. The parental strain leads him to weigh the strength of his bond with the two divorcees. Just as Ford feels nothing more could go wrong, he finds himself in the middle of a slashing spree - the victims being slashers themselves. He's forced to play the role of detective to avoid becoming suspect, or worse, a victim. As slasher after slasher is eliminated, Ford seeks out the blade-friendly stalker with the morally conflicted mindset "slash or be slashed." MAD MORAL is the world of Ford Fischer, where in murderous stuffed animals, demonic possessions, gigantic creepy crawlers, knife wielding slashers and much more madness are common place. Fischer, coupled with a romantically conflicted exorcist and a dreamer who redefines night terrors, leads us through a twisted world that can be best defined as one of a kind.
It’s not just that in June I helped coordinate a conference, wrote a video game, gave my first professional presentation in mumblety years and then triumphantly fell off my bike at
high-speed, it’s also that I had been hella putting off writing this review. Why? Because I’m a completionist: I start something, I like to finish it. I like putting a nice thick checkmark in each box, with the special pens that are the only pens I use because they dispense just the right amount of ink and fit perfectly in my hand and the rollerball rolls just so and no, I am not interested in seeking help for my thing with the pens.
The pens understand me. They are my friends. My secret scary friends of which I have several dozen, sequestered away.
And the pens understand why I did not want to write this review so much, for this is one checkbox that will stay sadly unticked.
Reader, I did not finish him.
Mad Moral is ostensibly the story of a serial killer, Ford Fischer, who, unable to stop himself from killing, mutilates his hand. In the background, he has ostensibly strained relationships with his two mothers (one of whom is transgender) and someone begins killing off other slashers. Ostensibly
I say ostensibly so hella much because the synopsis provided on GoodReads by the author I didn’t find matched up so well with what was actually going on in the book. And I say hella because I’m from Northern California.
To wit: Ford’s relationships with his mothers didn’t seem strained so much as he was a total dick to them. One of his mothers has a drug and prostitution problem, and he throws that in her face while asking her for money. To his transgender mother, he makes dick and boob jokes while asking her for money.
That’s not strained. That’s grow-the-fuck-up-manchild.
Then there’s this whole murdered slashers subplot. First of all, it doesn’t get started or even hinted at until about 40% of the way through the book. And it’s wound into this whole other deal with Sidnee, a girl who is being stalked by a demon and rejected by North Carolina’s hard-to-break-into REI-girl social scene. She is, of course, a slayer, but this whole demon-stalking thing is interfering with that.
Plus there’s a scene where a cop with a complicated sleeping problem is enjoying some donuts (seriously), which are interrupted by a call coming in of a dangerous attacker loose in the park. He rushes to the scene and only then do we find out that the attacker is a 10-foot-tall tarantula.
Yeah, I know, me too. You go back and read that again while I assure you I did not slip acid into your latte. A ten. Foot tall. Tarantula.
There’s more, like how the cop pulls out a stolen bazooka to use on the tarantula, and gets reprimanded for it and Ford’s transgender mother rips a tooth out of her own head in the middle of a scene without discernible reason but…
Y’all no. No. I just.
I really tried with this book. Four separate times. Why? Because the opening scene is really good, a clear homage to 80s serial slasher movies (and that right there is the way to my cold dark heart) and there’s a really interesting bit with Ford’s fucked-up relationship with his teddy bear, but…
For a while I thought it was just surrealism and maybe without a background in surrealism, it’s hard to follow the narrative. That may be it. But the dialogue was so samey-samey: everyone spoke in the same wooden sentence constructions, with no discernible variations:
“I’m Sidnee Vincent.”
“And may I ask what brings you here?”
“I stumbled over this group while browsing online. I’m interested in joining.”
“That’s nice to hear, the more members the better.”
“How exactly do I join?”
“You must pass a physical exam and pay an application fee.”
“I love the outdoors, I’m prepared for the examination whenever.”
Samantha pointed at the floor. “Excellent, we’ll host the exams here, next week, same time.”
“I’ll be here and on time. I wasn’t expecting this place to be so far out.”
“Where did you travel from?”
It goes on. But ultimately, I didn’t. For me, there was simply too much going on with too little clue as to whether the author was striving for surrealist horror or just fucking with his readers. I mean, you can do creepy supernatural horror and give the reader little or no explanation as to what’s going on — Bentley Little does it all the time. Dean Koontz starts nearly every one of his books with the reader completely confused as to what’s happening, and uses that confusion as motivation for staying with and being curious about resolving the central mystery, the why of how reality got bent in that particular story.
One final note if you do read this book: I’ve seen a lot of reviews that mention formatting problems, and I can tell you that this file got borked sideways on my Kindle, but when I opened it up in Calibre or via Kindle for a different tablet, most of the problems straightened out. Thus the value of a good ebook editor.
But that’s a different post.
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