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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Serial Killers Inc. by Andy Remic

Callaghan is a scallywag, divvying up his time between bedding married women, exploiting the vulnerable and dead to make a living at a tabloid magazine, and consuming enough alcohol and hardcore drugs to send him to an early grave.  And things are going well for him on this destructive path.

But Callaghan has an admirer, someone who has taken a keen interest in his lifestyle and transgressions.  Soon Callaghan discovers that his admirer may have a hand in a string of murders in the area, and that he is somehow connected to them.  Worst of all, this new killer has an idea to make Callaghan a part of the games.  When the walls start to crumble around him and people start to die, Callaghan has to make a decision:  continue with his careless lifestyle or finally take responsibility for his actions.  But doing so might mean making allies with disreputable characters
who have their own twisted sense of morality...
Serial Killers Inc. is a disturbingly violent book which demonstrates once more why Remic is both a terrifying human being and a literary dynamo.  When I reviewed Kell's Legend, I said he was "the Tarantino of fantasy," but having read Serial Killers Inc. I think it's fair to say that he's in a league all on his own, touched not by Tarantino's cult sensibilities, but by the wicked recesses of the human mind.  Serial Killers Inc. is a book that questions the morality of immoral people, challenging their limitations in what could be called an exaggerated allegory of "normal" human existence.  It's precisely Remic's treatment of morality in Serial Killers Inc that makes the book more than a romp into vulgarity.  Dragging Callaghan into a game of serial killers and monstrous people means finding a challenge fit for the character, but it also offers challenges to the reader, who might consider how the moral games played in the book reflect upon our world of grays.

Remic's work, however, is not for the faint of heart.  It's violent, crude, and sometimes even vulgar, pushing buttons even I find difficult to stomach.  But such things don't exist in Remic's work without reason.  Serial Killers Inc. is about characters who live in a world where vulgarity and perversion are regularities, and Remic has to find clever ways to make us care about these characters.  After all, we would not normally identify with someone who is sleeping with a woman married to a murderer, nor someone who thinks of women as sex objects.  And, in fact, it's because Callaghan is these things that we begin to understand why Remic has chosen to torture him in this novel.  Callaghan must be saved, not just from the evils of the world, but also from the evil in himself.  This doesn't mean that Callaghan will come out of the novel's events a saint; rather, it means he has to acknowledge that his life of disconnection from consequence is unsustainable.  Serial Killers Inc. may be a difficult book for some readers to swallow because of its language and themes, but if one can move past these to the heart of the tale (which seems to masquerade as a gory cult horror story, but is, in fact, much more), there's a compelling story to be had.

Serial Killers Inc. does have one major flaw.  Most of the plot is straightforward and develops effectively, but where Remic falters is in the introduction of subplots.  One of the major subplots is actually a whodunnit mystery narrative with a near-mystical resolution.  I thought the way the story turned out was fantastic, but it came too suddenly and with too little foreshadowing to have the impact it needed.  Remic does insert clues, but they are often too vague or too short, sometimes even difficult to disentangle from the insanity of the characters who present them (perhaps this is his intention).  The novel might have benefited from a linear development of Callaghan's investigations into the mysteries surrounding the murders of which he has unwittingly become a part.  Remic's novel clearly deals with detective tropes alongside its deconstructions of contemporary morality and cult horror elements.  I simply would have liked to see the detective bits expanded as well as the others.

As a novel in a new genre for Remic (he traditionally writes science fiction and fantasy), Serial Killers Inc. is a brilliant addition to the man's oeuvre, encapsulating the rushed, heavy-voiced writing style and cult horror tropes we've come to expect of him.  This is a novel to entice genre fans with its horror sensibilities, but also one to challenge readers beyond the genre with its no-holds-barred hyperrealism.  Though heavy handed, Serial Killers Inc. is a title well worth reading if you can handle Remic's unrelenting and unrepentant exploitation of the worst aspects of the human condition.  Call it a man fantasy or violence porn or whatever you like; if Remic keeps doing what he's doing, I'll keep coming back for more.

If you'd like to learn more about the book, check out the publisher's page or the author's website.  Serial Killers Inc. is available on Amazon and anywhere else books are sold.

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