Mad Mannequins from Hell: The Uncanny Valley Trilogy Book 1 by August V. Fahren (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, horror, nuns having fun
Rating: 2.78 out of 5 stars
Summary: Burton is a special effects makeup artist who strikes it big on a viral video “murdering” puppies. He parlays this into a career and proceeds to make cash by “killing” fans for fun and profit. When a short film goes awry and Burton uses a grimoire as a prop, mannequins all over Portland spring to life and start murdering the population. Now, it’s up to Burton and a team of ninja nuns to stop the demonic doppelgangers for good.
First and foremost, I have to point out the gorgeously boobtastic cover from artist Gianluca Mattia. Mattia recently re-designed Fahren’s prior novel which I also reviewed on this site titled Thursday Thistle. If you have time, head over to Amazon and check out the fun new cover, complete with purple haired heroine and her adorable alligator friend. You know how I know life isn’t fair? We all don’t have friendly pet alligators.
But I digress. Onto the literary side of things! The cover touts the novella as “Killer Clowns from Outer Space meets Evil Dead II,” which had me immediately excited. It definitely lives up to its promises in terms of camp level and the premise, both of which I’ll touch upon later. The narrative occasionally follows our sometimes protagonist Burton Vilmos, a special effects movie make up artist. Inspired by his famous father, dubbed Billy Blood by fans, and named after Tim Burton, his upbringing gave him a love for all things bloody and gory, spending most of his childhood creating fake murder scenes. If that doesn’t scream burgeoning serial killer nothing does.
After being fired from his job, Burton punishes his boss by faking the murder of the director’s puppies. Puppy murder, even fake puppy murder didn’t really endear me to his character. Especially when a wood chipper is involved. In addition to this opening fake out, a la Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight, his partner in crime video tapes the whole mess and the video goes viral. Burton creates SplatterYou.com where he “kills” fans in short films for cash. He hosts these videos as the Industrial Design Technology Killer (IDT), a campy kitschy character who spouts lines such as, “Hey, you little maniacs! We’re counting down the twelve days to Slay-mas and have I got a tasty bit of gorn for you tonight.” The question of whether gorn is supposed to be gore aside, I enjoy Burton a lot more in his role as IDT. Maybe it’s just my love of the Cryptkeeper sneaking in.
As fun as these sections are, the plot can drag a little as we move away completely from the narrative and instead focus on the short films within the novella. A good deal of the short films are described on the page (although not all twelve) and it can take you out of the moment. This makes the narrative slightly disjointed, especially when you just want to get to the main thrust of the story and find out where exactly things are going. After this little shift, we get back to the plot: specifically a short film gone horribly wrong. Assuming that Burton has never seen either The Mummy or The Evil Dead, he uses the copy of a grimoire his friend Antonio gave him and unleashes hell. Seriously dude, you mustn’t read from the book.
I have two main problems with this. One, what kind of friend gifts another friend an evil book? Note to all friends, current and future out there: if you’re ever in Chinatown and a creepy shop owner sells you an evil grimoire, please do not give it to me. Ever. Gremlins are another story. Not that I like Burton would ever be stupid enough to use a grimoire in a ritual to summon Beelzebub, whether it’s for a short film or not. It saddens me that two men whose career revolves around horror movies would be as ignorant as to unleash demonic mannequins upon the world. Don’t worry, it’s better than that awful “Doctor Who” pilot.
The novella itself is set in the torn of Portland, Oregon, home of hipsters and the birthplace of Bizarro. This is where the camp (not in the form of our main character) comes in, as Fahren pits members of a group called Santa Rampage against the Children of Pan who argue about who truly owns Christmas, the pagans or the Christians. He also tackles various subcultures, from yuppies to hipsters to surfers, killing them in increasingly amusing and creative ways while putting a spin on the happy/loving theme of Christmas. And there might be a rampaging Santa who makes an appearance.
While it’s fun that the narrative zips around Portland to highlight the various carnage and the horror meets satire end is intriguing, it draws away from the plot. Like the Slay-mas countdown, it’s hard to remember what the main storyline is when the narrative leaves it behind for 50% of the book. Especially when it’s devoted not to Burton but to the various Portland natives. At least the humorous deaths- and in the case of the hipsters, apathy- keeps you motivated to keep reading.
Thankfully, the plot returns back to Burton in the final bit of the novella and we finally meet the Trinity Sisters, AKA the Sisters of the Divine Blade. Battle nuns. Ninja sisters. Etc. See the boobtastic nun from the cover, represented of Sister Sever, Sister Slaughter, and Sister Strange. No Sister Sledge? Instead of throwing stars they use crucifixes and beat their enemies with over-sized rulers and rosary beads. They also might enjoying reenacting sex scenes from “Watchmen” (but with more kink), complete with Leonard Cohen soundtrack. If only they had popped in to save the world from demonic forces a little bit sooner.
-Literal book cover porn- holy boobies!
-Filled with classic B horror movie conventions (camp, evil books)
-Gotta love the dialogue from Burton’s IDT Killer persona
-Narrative feels a little disjointed
-Easy to get lost in narrative due to loss of focus on Burton
-Difficult to make connections with characters and feel for them
Now the question remains, is this a real trilogy, a standalone masquerading as a trilogy or one of those trilogies that are actually quartets? And for that matter, what exactly is an Uncanny Valley? Sounds like something that belongs in Beverly Hills. Only time and August V. Fahren will tell.