SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!SPOILERS!!YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE ANYWAY!!SPOILERS!!SPOILERS!!LEAVE!!
This is an odd book. It's as if you're walking down this trail somewhere and suddenly you see another trail off to the side. It is far less traveled and appears to be a shortcut. You take it. You're now traveling in uncommon territory, and it turns into the longcut, filling you with scenery that is not particularly noteworthy, but signposts with big question marks on them along with way are too compelling to quit. Finally, the path ends at a big, open pit filled with these beforementioned inquisitive ciphers. You kick some dirtclods into the pit and move on.
To throw a namesake genre blanket over this book, I guess you could call it a mini apocalypse tale. Or, a really ramped-up serial killer procedural. But you can't just call it insipid mush. Maybe a little unbridled when it comes to pathways, though.
There really isn't much of a plot: A very small and select group of people—some who don't know each other outside of this circumstance—have somehow externalized their anger—or a perverse need—and are killing both strangers and significant others. A few of these people—a brother and sister is all—fuck their victims while they wrap their souls in their own foulness and take it away. One character, however, has the full-bore rage, Life Rage. He kills thousands and becomes so toxic no one can get close enough to stop him without dying themselves. And, oh yeah, this one guy? No one can see his face 'cause "there was a shimmering about him that made his features indistinct"(p.202). The police call him "The Shredder"(p.56). He likes to fling "legs, heads, torsos [around] like some kind of gigantic tossed salad of human remains"(p.176).
Since atmospherics are not especially notable—a city big enough to have a subway, sleazy bars and dark alleys—so author Soares concentrates on characterization. There's Colleen. As a teenager, she "used to carve words into her arms with razor blades"(p.5). Now, she sleeps with anyone, does lots and lots of evasion therapy with abusive substances, and generally is sleepwalking through life, jobs, lovers. She's depressed, lost, and pissed off about it. Because two of her boyfriends are horribly torn apart in front of her, she mounts some determination out of her misery for reconciliation in its bloodiest form. She's not an especially likeable character, but she's the only one in this cast of losers who presses and leads with her glamour onward to restitution.
Glamour? More about this later.
In Colleen's circle, there are three other characters representing different ways to deal with their misfortunes or stacked disadvantages against them. Jeremy was a jet-setter, actor, playboy until an accident misformed him. Still rich enough to have a house on the beach, he now looks like "fucking Frankenstein's monster"(p.59). Colleen stumbles onto him one night and ends up moving in, as he takes her under his protection and becomes the only character who can truly give cherishment and selfless love. Pretty rapidly, this Beauty and the Beast scenario plays out as Jeremy becomes a human piñata under the bashings of The Shredder. He was too much the caricature of the really nice guy anyway.
Then there's Viv and her younger brother Grif. With these two, you gotta take Morpheus' blue pill. Viv has a room in Jeremy's pad but, although attracted, she's kept it platonic. She leaves mysteriously at night and, ah, feeds her irascibility for tender hearts. It's a bummer for her she can't swallow up Jeremy—she barely holds herself back sometimes—because the more attraction the better the meal. But why slaughter the golden goose, eh? She justifies her homicides by interpretation that
Now Grif bops in and out of the read quite late. He's got the same soul-suck addiction as Viv, but is far more prolific. He's on the run and has "a real knack for causing problems"(p.210), which translates as too many bodies piling up around him. He's a carefree libertine, a gigolo of insatiable need. Personality-wise, he reminds me of the Felix character in the BBC series Orphan Black, but lacking any scruples.
These two both have the Life Rage, but bored-down and controllable by imitating Strigoi. Additionally, these two fuck you to death while they waste out your life's essences. Now, note that these are sympathetic characters—they hold out chewing into Colleen; they have discipline—'cause there's a far worse murderer in the pages. Their iniquitous behavior is rationalized as unrestrainable, therefore inculpable. Did I mention these sibs are also incestual?
Sam Wayne is the pivotal persona of Life Rage. When first met, he seems harmless albeit a complete egotist—"I'm a fucking miracle worker"(p.45)—and monomaniacal:
You see, Sam's a psychologist, specializing in anger management. He's somehow discovered a way to enrich his grandiose delusions by mentally sucking out their souls and physically by breaking them down, as with one victim, "until her head was a bloody mess, devoid of features. . . He finished tearing away her clothes, and fucked her still-warm corpse"(p.140-1). He's married to Maggie who is a drunk—who wouldn't, being hitched to this obsessive creep—and while desperate and overwhelmed with sadness, Maggie has found Viv and a way to get Kevorkianized. " 'It feels so good,' Maggie said again. . . Viv could feel the waves of love emanating from her . . . And, when Maggie died, Viv found herself in the throes of [orgasmic] ecstasy"(p.146).
See? There's a good way to get murdered and a bad way to get murdered; however, it is still fookin' murder.
In conclusion, Sam's powers—really SuperPowers since there is no satisfying answer as to origin—becomes enough to start his own comic book franchise, as nobody can get within 100 feet of him without being fury-struck by "waves of rage"(p.334) to wield killing attacks on bystanders and themselves. Nevertheless, Colleen is immune—Viv, later, subscribes it to "the green aura around Colleen's face"(p.383)—and distracts him enough for Viv to get a lock on his diseased soul and strangle it. Then, back at the girls' sugar shack, Viv accidentally sucks up Colleen's essence while the two lesbo out. Penultimate to The End, Viv "had never felt so alone in all her life."(p.386).
Oh yeah, the Glamour(1). Well, it is these characters' super-human abilities. Unfortunately, there's a lot of speculation about what it does, but nothing really about what it is. Supernatural? Alien mindreading? Evolution of a new Human species? It is a big, dark hole of unsupportable attainment from which the whole plot engine is fueled. Now, this is not a clichéd read. It steamrolls into a lot of dark corners most authors wouldn't go, like what some people would call deviant sex, even snuff sex. And, as I said before, making your so-called "good guys" pretty creepy and anti-social killers, it is hard to swallow back on the lack of morality guiding their conduct. But there maybe justification in the so-called subliminal messaging(2) when exploring anger/rage/lonliness/sadness. And if Alice can go down that unsubstantiated rabbit hole, I guess I can too.
1) Glamour. The archaic meaning lies around magic or enchantment, spells or witchery. This is my own mental hashtag to identify action or attitudes that do not appear to have adequate or believable motivations behind them in or out of our agreed-upon reality. It's a reference to Christopher Priest's 1984 novel, The Glamour, which is about people who are invisible. Not being recognized, they cannot be acknowledged, yet they can be heard. They have what is called the "Glamour". Problem is, who's talking? Especially when the author himself makes an appearance?