“Before Daddy started stuffing road kill in the living room, I almost thought everything would turn out all right. My Daddy’s hands were like burnt maps. He said if we wanted to learn how to conquer the world, all we had to do was look at his hands. After working at the factory he used to sit at the kitchen table with a glass of whiskey and the after dinner cigar that Momma always gave him. He kicked off his boots and lit the cigar and said “Hey Kids you want to hear a story?” Then he’d lay those black scarred hands, palms up, on the kitchen table for us to touch. I still remember their texture, like cool braised metal. When Sissy and I were small and baby brother hadn’t yet started to eat his fingers Daddy picked us up and held us above his head so we could fly”.
This was before Charlie’s Dad, the one rock solid point of refuge in a world of hell, lost his job and with it any claim to his sanity. This was before his Dad ran out the house one night with a stuffed deer under one arm.
Charles lives on the Black Planet, a world terrorized by a masked God that screams and curses from the television where, to go outside, risks a confrontation with swamp witches, plague machines or to be picked up by the hell shuttles. A world where salesmen sale tranquillity that clinicians hotwire into the brain.
One day Charles meets a women named Leda, who claims to have escaped from hell, this mysterious women offers hope that there is life beyond the rule of the God. Then she vanishes, and Charles leaves his town to find her with the help from his ex – a stripper who’s been hotwired and is now a deadhead. Along the way he will meet others like Leda, and he will slowly open his eyes to the realities of the Black Planet, uncovering it’s truths, which brings him into a confrontation with it’s God.
Without revealing more of the book to you, it’s hard to describe what’s going on. This book could have labels chucked at it all day - Horror, Dystopian, Fantasy, Surreal Absurd even Sci-Fi, it has elements of all of these, in places it had a disturbing quality that would make you pause, as you gasped at the violence & perversity of this God’s world. This is a book where unsettling images impale your sensibility, leaving you adrift from your commonplace bearings, where darkness is the norm and light is a stranger, that could be friend or foe. If this was all this book was it would be fine - it would be ok, but like Charles it drags itself out of the morass, because of the love story that forms it’s essence. This dark story of religious intolerance & inherent corruption, has a desolate and yet charming love story, that, in the sadness of its telling, reminded me of Shane Jones’s Light Boxes, that makes The Crooked God Machine, a strangely beautiful, dark tale that has the power to enchant the reader whilst it’s twisted logic drills deep into the psyche.
Autumn Christian is a horror writer who lives in the dark woods of the southern United States, with poisonous blue flowers in her backyard and a set of polished cow skulls on her mantel.
She has been a freelance writer, an iPhone game designer, a cheese producer, a haunted house actor, and a video game tester. She considers Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Katie Jane Garside, the southern gothic and dubstep as main sources of inspiration, although you could easily add Clive Barker & Steven King to that list. The Crooked God Machine is her first published novel.
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