This Book is Good and This Book is Also Bad: a #review of Autumn Christian’s CROOKED GOD MACHINE

41rQ16mZceLA quick programming note: my wife is in Boston all week for a work thing; I drove her to the train station at midnight last night, so while I am technically on vacation for a week  once my shift ends at 6 tonight, I’m also on solo daddy duty all next week and I have a couple of full-day training things for my new job, plus at least one other life-related excursion for each day next week.  So I’m gonna be kind of busy!  I’ll be using my spare time to work on Book Stuff but it’s gonna be an interesting week and there may not be a ton of time for bloggery.

Which means a 2000-word post every day, obviously.

Anyway.  I’m on Warren Ellis’ newsletter, and he pointed out this little indie-published (!!!) novel called Crooked God Machine, and I’m tempted to just quote his entire brief review because he’s Warren Ellis and he’s better at this than me but instead I’ll just link to it.  At any rate, the review doesn’t need to be complicated: in some ways this book is one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read in a deliciously good way; it’s about a world that is ending but is not in any hurry to do so, and what growing up in a world like that is like, and God yelling from you inside of a television, and people deliberately turning themselves into brain-spider zombies so that they don’t have to deal with their own existence any longer– the sales pitch for the brain-spiders is literally you don’t have to experience the next ten years.  The writing is uniformly gorgeous throughout– Autumn Christian wrote this between the ages of 19 and 21, which is unbelievable– this is A Confederacy of Dunces-level Evil Young Genius writing going on here.  If you are a fan of dark and really creepy horror I recommend it unreservedly.  If you aren’t, be aware that the subject matter is deeply fucked up throughout– a dead infant gets fed to a monster in a swamp at one point, and the monster torments the main character for the rest of the book, and that’s just that one thing, so maybe assume a trigger warning?  Ellis calls it “young, raw work” in his review and he’s absolutely right– there is a certain immaturity here, and it’s very clearly the product of a preternaturally talented young person who is very, very angry with the world she has been handed, and that’s something you probably need to be aware of about it, but it’s definitely worth reading and is gonna stick with me for a while.

That said.  I bought this book in print because I try to buy everything in print, and also honestly the cover is compelling as hell and I wanted it on my shelf.  Notice how the title on the cover omits the definite article?  The name of the book is The Crooked God Machine, according to everything on Amazon and everything inside the book.  It is perhaps a sign of how carefully the print manuscript is edited that the book gets the title wrong on the cover.  You will look at this and know immediately that it is an indy title, unfortunately– everything from the print size to the font choices to little things like chapters starting on the left-hand page once in a while screams that this was put together by someone who 1) had no experience in book design and 2) did not take the time to carefully look through the books in their possession and pay careful attention.  It is also, unfortunately, riddled with the types of errors you get when you are depending on spellcheck as your primary source of editing– in other words, there are next to no misspelled words, but there are lots of errors– nearly every chapter– of omitted words, autocorrecty sorts of errors where the word used is a real word so spellcheck won’t catch it but it is nonetheless completely the wrong word, and sentences where some editing took place but the editing itself introduced a second error that didn’t get caught.

I have seen from reviews that the ebook is not prone to this, but the print version will drive you crazy if you are the type to notice this.  It’s still absolutely worth reading but it cost the book a star in my Goodreads review because indie authors have to be better than this.  Then again, Warren fucking Ellis reviewed her book positively so maybe what the hell do I know.  Warren Ellis sure as hell isn’t reading The Benevolence Archives, right?

Sigh.

 

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.