Some people have a ton, some people have a few, but just about everybody has a book, or books, that they love. I asked author Leo X. Robertson and...
Puppet Skin by Danger Slater - Fungasm Press 2016
Puppet Skin sets the bar for what Bizarro can achieve. Taking place in a world where human teenagers are converted into puppets as a rite of passage, the story makes important points about the necessity of remaining true to yourself and consistently fleeing from the safe and comfortable avenues that life offers.
The clamour for safety in the adult world is palpable, the search for definable benchmarks of success so seductive. Those who rightfully choose their own path know you just have to find out what you hold dear and ride it to death.
After reading this, I looked around and saw puppets everywhere. I swear the hinges of my own jaw clack woodenly sometimes. Hopefully when I get pulped they’ll print the words of Puppet Skin on my bleached product.
Hogg by Samuel R. Delany - Black Ice Books 1995
I’ve read many of Delany’s books, but none have influenced me as much as Hogg.
Hogg can’t be summarised without a bunch of keywords I’m sure the police are searching for right now—so I’ll just say that it’s a journey through the heart of absolute savagery. The apparent revelation that, ‘Yeah, Leo, you’re really allowed to write about anything at all’, continues to hit me periodically, but no book has ever delivered the message with as much power.
Perhaps the most twisted thing about Hogg is that Delany refrains from giving the story any definite meaning. If he had, I wonder if I’d be raving about it now.
Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami - Kondasha International (Translation) 1995
Beautiful, gripping, hilarious, wilfully juvenile and constantly pushing at the boundaries of the extreme, Murakami could sell you the weirdest world ever built as real.
Two baby boys are abandoned in coin-operated lockers at a Tokyo train station: life only gets stranger from there as they grow up and live out their days in the poisonous wasteland of Toxitown. For me, the book is asking what hope anyone has of flourishing when deprived of nurture from their very birth. Deprivation begets depravity—and yet it’s all too much fun.
I’ve read this book twice, but for whatever reason, the details of it keep eluding me: it only makes it easier to go back.
The Collector by John Fowles - Little, Brown & Company 1963
The story is not entirely new—a city hall clerk captures an art student and keeps her in his cellar—but what follows is superb characterisation and philosophical ponderings conducted through exchanges of electric dialogue. I hoped the whole time that the story would turn out differently. Isn’t that one of the best and worst features humans have?
The Book of Dave by Will Self - Bloomsbury USA 2006
The story jumps back and forth through time: one narrative is the descent into madness of London taxi driver Dave in the early 2000s; the second concerns a future society, living in a flooded London, who have found Dave’s book, a one-off tome written at the height of his psychosis, which they take as gospel. It seems at first an almost sneering satire of taxi drivers and the Fathers for Justice movement that was so big at the time of writing, but Self characterises Dave so empathetically that comedy soon begets tragedy. As soon as I was done, I wrote to Self to thank him for writing it, and despite his public gloom about the novel’s future, he was quite encouraging about my own work.
Leo X. Robertson is a Scottish process engineer and emerging writer, currently living in Oslo, Norway. He has stories most recently published by Schlock!, Twisted50 and Creepy Campfire Quarterly. His horror novella, Bonespin Slipspace, will be published by Psychedelic Horror Press this Halloween - available for pre-order here: Psychedelic Horror Press
In Bonespin Slipspace, all is not what it seems. Rudy and Tammy may have made the biggest mistake of their lives by accepting an invitation to Blackburn's manor to party with the depraved Manorites. Head-games, ghoulish hallucinations, and disturbing memories lurk around every corner of the psychic and physical labyrinth that is The Manor Experience. Rudy and Tammy may never get out alive, but, in Blackburn's world, even death may no longer offer the familiar escape. Give Rimbaud an x-ray machine. Tie up and gag Baudelaire. Introduce Poe to bondage. Do you dare enter the realm of Bonespin Slipspace?