Review: Terence, Mephisto and Viscera Eyes by Chris Kelso (Bizarro Pulp Press, 2014)

Review by Dinesh Raghavendra

Terence, Mephisto and Viscera Eyes is a chapbook composed of nine short stories written by Bizarro/Pulp author Chris Kelso. This is Kelso’s seventh book, and I found it allusive and full of linguistic trickery in some stories and banal and straightforward in others. The stories themselves vary in length and have little in common except the strand of violence that runs throughout.

The first story is set on a slave ship and is startling in its depiction of violence. The vivid imagery can be unsettling but ultimately the story just becomes an exercise in exquisite prose and the narrative loses interest.

The second story is clever with its allusions and its meta-narrative arc where the protagonist is a stand-in for Chris Kelso and the decadence and sordid details follow from the first story. Slavery is touched upon time and again although I would not call it a cohesive theme for the rest of stories in the book. An attempt at exploring colonialism and human greed through the stories would be more accurate however the attempt ultimately succumbs to descriptions of violence and depravity.

Predictably necrophilia gets a detailed treatment which I felt was banal because it is a literary trope that has lost its shock value for me. The rest of the stories are more or less on the same vein. A “Will Self meets Chuck Palanhuik” lite version of short stories if you will. Kelso’s vision is original and it is ambitious but his imagination is bounded. The stories are sincere but the emphasis to shock rather than narrate seems to have mainly been the goal. I would recommend this to fans of horror purely as a stylistic exercise. Learning the ropes for how a writer fleshes out the story from the skeleton but it ultimately doesn’t scare or elicit any other feeling in the reading.

Kelso lacks in creating characters we can care about. I felt a casual indifference it seemed as if the violent circumstances that befall his protagonists were more important than their consequences for his characters. The next big splatter moment is focused upon rather than characters and their motivations. I felt some of them were one dimensional and mere props for desecration. But the stories are entertaining and engage. I did not find all of them boring but they ultimately lack because it becomes a hodge-podge of literary devices without any plot or characters worth reading about.

 

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