I had never heard the term ‘bizarro fiction’ until I ran across Carlton Mellick III’s work. If you are as I was, and are not familiar with ‘bizarro’, here is the definition: “Bizarro fiction is a contemporary literary genre, which often uses elements of absurdism, satire, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive, weird, and entertaining works.”
This definition is the perfect way to describe Mellick’s latest release, SWEET STORY. Oh, but don’t confuse this book with a kid’s tale or even a romance novel…this tome is a trek into surrealistic horror at its finest. And let me just say: it is weird, it is horrific, and it is one hell of a book!
If you are not familiar with SWEET STORY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Eraserhead Press:
The end of the world has never been sweeter.
Sally is an odd little girl. It’s not because she dresses as if she’s from the Edwardian era or spends most of her time playing with creepy talking dolls. It’s because she chases rainbows as if they were butterflies. She believes that if she finds the end of the rainbow then magical things will happen to her–leprechauns will shower her with gold and fairies will grant her every wish. But when she actually does find the end of a rainbow one day, and is given the opportunity to wish for whatever she wants, Sally asks for something that she believes will bring joy to children all over the world. She wishes that it would rain candy forever. She had no idea that her innocent wish would lead to the extinction of all life on earth.
Sweet Story is a children’s book gone horribly wrong. What starts as a cute, charming tale of rainbows and wishes soon becomes a vicious, unrelenting tale of survival in an inhospitable world full of cannibals and rapists. The result is one of the darkest comedies you’ll read all year, told with the wit and style you’ve come to expect from a Mellick novel.
I was not sure what to expect going into this story. The book is short, only 105 pages in length, which made me wonder if a good story could be crammed into so little paper. Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded. Mellick does a phenomenal job of telling this warped little tale with minimal wording.
SWEET STORY is written well, in a simple, no nonsense style. The story flows smoothly along at an even pace, and the detail is just vivid enough to create the scene and let the reader’s mind do the rest. I like Mellick’s writing style because it fits perfectly for a shorter tale such as this.
The characters are quirky but believable, flawed individuals who could be living right next door to any of us. This realism makes the horror of the story even more striking when the bad things start to happen.
And ‘bad things’ is an understatement to describe the events that take place in SWEET STORY.
In spite of the innocence of Sally’s wish, things go horribly wrong and the world ends as a result. This tragedy is only enhanced by what happens to the survivors as they struggle to find a life in this new world. The stark contrast between the sweetness of the wish and the brutality of the struggle to survive in the aftermath is a major part of what makes this book so excellent. I found myself grinning at the beginning of the book, but then cringing at the end. It is simply that good.
SWEET STORY is a major win for me, and I cannot wait to see what Mellick does next. If his previous titles are any indication, there is no telling. He has a brilliant and deranged imagination that is as haunting as it is intelligent. SWEET STORY is not for the faint of heart, but it is a great read, and I recommend it if you can handle it. The book is available now.