BOOK REVIEW: ‘Berzerkoids’ by MP Johnson

Berzerkoids
Berzerkoids
Image from the publisher

This book is PUNK. From the title to the themes, passing through the style and tone, MP Johnson brings out punk culture in his collection, Berzerkoids.

I’ve known MP online for a few years now, and my first exposure to his work was his book The After-Life Story Of Pork Knuckles Malone, a Bizarro extravaganza on its own, which you should definitely check it out.

In this here collection, MP weaves tales that range from real world settings (‘Ex-Punk’, ‘Record Collector Scum’, etc) to completely Bizarro environments (‘Rise Of The Berzerkoids’, etc), and everything in between.

Johnson weaves the absurd with such ease and naturalism, you can completely suspend your disbelief from what you’re reading. You become entranced by his words, and sometimes even moved (‘Story Of a Board’ and ‘Feed My Corpse To Sharks’ are both actual, honest to God tearjerkers).

You’ll leave this book behind feeling as if you went on a wild, wild ride. I guarantee you, you won’t feel as if your time was wasted here. Every single story brings something cool to the table, and some are really emotional and sincere. And that’s MP Johnson’s biggest quality: He’s honest with the reader, and he lets real emotions drip onto the page.

That’s not to say this book is just about emotions. Johnson is a master crafter, and this book is extremely well written. The days of Bizarro (and genre fiction in general) being regarded as ‘fun, but poorly written’ are pretty much over.  The major publishers in the Bizarro genre today have a rigorous quality control over the content they put out. Bizarro is not a genre on which anything goes. The main point of Bizarro is to be entertaining while being weird and surreal.

My favourites from this collection:

‘The Final Failure Of a Professional Small Animal Inside-Outter’ is an utterly absurd story about a man who’s a failure in turning small animals inside out. The tone on this story reminded me a lot of Kevin Donihe’s work in his collection The Travelling Dildo Salesman.

‘Groupie’ is a story in the vein of Chuck Palahaniuk’s ‘Guts’. It’s really hard to get through, sincerely disturbing, but the payoff is amazing. The imagery is brutal and it made me cringe, but the ending…the ending is so good. I’d love to see MP reading this one in public, just to see the reactions from the crow.

And last but not least, ‘I Think I’ll Donate This Severed Head To The Salvation Army’, a story that – deep down – deals with the pain of a breakup, but in a completely Bizarro, out-there manner, is really cool.




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