Tuesday, 18 January 2011

One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau

I found it quite hard to know what to think of this horror story, more novella than novel, since my Kindle copy appeared to be haunted by faint lines of text which appeared, writ large, in seemingly random places, often apparently bearing no relation to the immediate events - they clearly were part of the story, but I couldn't decide who they were spoken by. Were they in the original, the non-Kindle version, or were they the result of some arcane glitch that appeared during conversion? The answer is that I'm not sure - I tried looking at the PDF version and couldn't find them there (but my access was limited and brief), and I am very aware that formatting seems to go a bit haywire when transferring to the Kindle, so I'm left wondering. If they were intended to be there they were mysterious and effective, puzzling until the end, when I finally worked out whose voice it was. (If anyone thinks I was being unduly dense, I should point out that there were other formatting difficulties, even more confusing - if it had been a longer work, I doubt if I could have stuck with it).

Jackie has a bit of a problem with anger management. Charlie can't guess what the headless woman is desperately trying to tell him and, anyway, he's more worried about his dog getting old. Jackie wants to tell Ann she loves her, but Ann is preoccupied because she's having trouble with her mom. It's a gruesome little tale, the story of people struggling to hold it together when really bad things happen. The writing both externalises their struggles yet makes them sympathetic - perhaps the brevity helps here, because I think it would be hard not to read it all in one gulp. It's a helter-skelter of a horror story, everything tumbling inexorably towards a conclusion which is more a muddled heap than a resolution, yet somehow breathlessly satisfying, even though you're not sure how you got there, or if it's really over.

Overall, I think it's a success - not quite my usual kind of thing, but funny, experimental and grisly. If the opportunity arises, I'll approach other works by this young writer with interest. It was read for the Canadian Book Challenge, via NetGalley (who have, I note, removed their Kindle option for the present.)

*Edited later to say that a review on LibraryThing makes it clear that all copies are haunted by apparently random words (as I'd hoped, because it's something that stays with me now that I've finished the book). I think the intention may be easier to follow in a printed version.


  1. Are they all haunted by the same random words? i suppose they must be, it would be too expensive to do otherwise, but much more fun if they weren't. When I saw the heading to your post I thought it was a comment on your current situation. I'm so glad that wasn't the case!

  2. Annie, yes, all the same, but I get the impression that the printed copy has single words on a page that gradually add up to a full sentence, whereas my e-version had the sentence appear in odd places. Current situation not quite that bad (trying not to tempt providence!)