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Book Review: Entropy In Bloom (2017)

Entropy In Boom by Jeremy Robert Johnson
Genre: Most things under the sun (Noir, Bizzaro, Crime, Weird, etc)
Published by: Night Shade Books
Release Date: April 18, 2017

In the foreword to Entropy In Bloom, Brian Evenson states: “In Johnson’s world, anything can happen. The most crazed, twisted ideas are given life, pursued to their bitter limit.” This hits one of the things that grounds Entropy, and other thing is the heart with which these stories are told. It’s weird to say that when the tone of this collection is often very dark, but it does have a lot of heart, and every story reads blazingly fast.

Opening up the collection is “The League of Zeroes”, a story where body modification is taken to the extreme, and the more bizarre the modification the more you’re treated as royalty. It’s a story that is easily believable in a world where reality TV gets more and more airtime,  and our constant engagement in social media lets us become voyeurs in other people’s lives leading our fascination and curiosity of one another to grow and expand.

“The Gravity of Benham Falls” sees Johnson flexing his horror muscles as this story follows the protagonist, a woman named Laura goes on a trip with a mark, a handsome man named Tony to Benham Falls, a place where her younger brother died years ago, and the implications that a Native American woman still haunts the waterfall, killing anyone in the vicinity. Not your average ghost story, that’s for sure.

One of the most impressive things about Entropy In Bloom are the ideas/themes running in and out of this collection, specifically: the failing boundaries of reality, and the trauma that one endures throughout life and the lasting consequences of this trauma. These ideas are especially prevalent in stories like “Dissociative Skills”, “Saturn’s Game” two stories that are vastly different from one another but share that same kernel of a thought pervading each. In “Dissociative Skills” a drug addled teenager pushes the limits pain he inflicts on himself, leading to a bloody, gut-wrenching finale. “Saturn’s Game” takes the approach of being a person with a failing perception of reality. It’s an incredibly humanizing story about mental illness that stems from a physical trauma. It’s a bloody mess that puts you in the shoes of someone who’s losing everything — time, touch, smell, emotion, etc.

The final story I’ll touch on is the original novella “The Sleep of Judges”. It’s for anyone whose ever experienced being robbed, and the underlying effects that has on a person’s psyche. It’s compounded by the fact that the protagonist actively questions his masculinity, and whether or not he can keep his wife, his child, and his home safe from harm. It has left turns throughout, but it has a great payoff at the climax of the story.

Johnson writers powerful stories. It’s an undeniable fact, but the thing that impresses me the most is his ability to humanize things so well, and make them so incredibly relateable even when the most bizarre thing is happening (like a man who makes a cockroach suit to escape a nuclear apocalypse, or a Lovecraftian parasite that slowly transforms your body in extreme, grotesque ways). It’s this that makes the collection so vivid and unique. Entropy in Bloom is a book that any reader of any genre can get into, and find something they’d enjoy.

10/10

Buy ENTROPY IN BLOOM: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Powell’s
Find Jeremy Robert Johnson on Twitter

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