David W. Barbee’s latest insanity is a truly bizarro trip through a rusted southern hell.
We’ve covered books from Eraserhead Press before, and while they’ve all been entertaining and well-written, none hold a candle to A Town Called Suckhole. Taking place hundreds of years in the future down in the radiated wasteland of the American south, A Town Called Suckhole initially comes across as over-the-top stereotypes being exploited just for the hell of it. However, don’t let the silly cover and first few pages mislead you: this may be a novel containing all the familiar bizarro trappings, but it’s also a well-paced keep-you-guessing mystery, one that has been expertly crafted. You’ll quickly find yourself not only curious about where the plot is going, but also eager to learn more about the inhabitants living in the violent town. Barbee has truly created a living, breathing world, one which jumps off the pages, assaults your nasal passages, and kicks you right in the gut.
Barbee’s well-written dialogue and perfect descriptions truly set this one apart from other bizarro fiction. A lot of bizarro feels like a string of random weirdness that’s been pieced together in an effort to be as odd as possible. Suckhole, on the other hand, lowers the weirdness level a slight bit, in exchange for a more fully-formed premise. Don’t get me wrong, this is still an incredibly strange book, but it seems like Barbee pulled back a bit on the bizarre, and made up the difference in his storytelling and character development. I don’t normally say this about bizarro fiction, but I’d LOVE to see Barbee write another book that takes place in the same universe as A Town Called Suckhole. Actually, now that I think about it, the only other time I’ve said that was in a review of another piece of Barbee’s work.
After I read her a few excerpts from the book, Brittnie (who, like the author, is from Georgia) expressed how impressed she was that Barbee managed to capture the atmosphere of the south, despite taking place far in the future after WWIII. Specifically, she pointed out his accurate depiction of how it felt and smelled, right down to the details he put into the mud and air. I also told her about what the reader eventually learns to be the history and motivation behind a group of characters, which, thinking with a southern viewpoint, launched her into a fit of giggles that lasted for quite a while. She explained that, once she got past the insanity of it all, it actually made a LOT of sense in the context of where/when the story takes place. In addition, she praised the injection of modern cultural references (“Abraham Hussein Lincoln”) that not only worked in the context of the story, but also in the context of the stereotypes depicted. In short, Barbee has taken the heritage and stereotypes of the south, and turned them into honest-to-goodness literary devices that move the story forward as well as amuse the reader.
In the end, A Town Called Suckhole feels like the next evolutionary step in bizarro literature. It hits all the right points in terms of absurdity and outlandish characters, but it also manages to weave a story that will grab the reader by their rasoodock, and keep them constantly guessing about where the mystery will take them. That’s not to say that bizarro fiction has never managed to weave an intriguing story, but it’s never been done with the level of care and attention that Barbee has provided here.
Whether you’re a fan of bizarro fiction or not, A Town Called Suckhole is an amusing, entertaining, well-crafted story, one which deserves your attention. Grab a copy today!
Special thanks to David W. Barbee for providing us with the copy of the book used in this review. Be sure to check out other novels by him and his fellow writers over at Eraserhead Press. There’s some truly great stuff available from them!