A Town Called Suckhole by David W. Barbee (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, satire, the South, post-apocalyptic, alternative history, this is why I won’t live in a red state
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Summary: The town of Suckhole arose out of a war between the northern and southern parts of the United States, created by radiation and the mutual destruction of both warring factions. Now, men in the town are being murdered and it’s the job of a human-animal hybrid named Dexter Spikes to save the citizens from further harm. In time for the “Hell-Yeah Heritage Jamboree” of course.
Ah, post-apocalyptic radioactive wastelands created in an alternative history America. You gotta love them. This novella is all about the end times in Suckhole, which occurred “eleventy thousand years” ago when dinosaurs and cars lived side by side and the North declared war on the “harmless” South. The war, which destroyed the population, revolved around the North turning the slaves against their masters with evil science, global warming and abortions! It’s easy to figure out who’s telling this story.
Unfortunately for the nation, the North, led by Abraham Hussein Lincoln (their words, not mine) escalated to nuclear war and Suckhole was created from the ashes of the devastation as a land of freedom for Southerners. Due to radiation, crazy mutated animals formed and took over the world. Like they do. One would hope that it would be sterility considering what was left behind of the population to breed, but that was sadly not the case. Instead lizardhounds, jackalopes, bear-sized mosquitoes and werepossums took over the landscape. Hopefully they at least help with population control.
In addition to crazy animals, the story is peppered with crazy characters who live in an even crazier world. There’s Mayor Crockwallop, the deceased Skeeter John Whorley (whose death starts the murder investigation the plot revolves around), Sheriff Bledskoe, the truck hat wearing idiot and his deputy/son Jescoe. The town is populated with gangs like the Hill Bills and the militia, and is full of trailers stacked on top of one another to form towers and a cityscape. Names like Smackdab Street, Foxworthy Square, Fleabit Street and Blue Tick Boulevard are the best the townsfolk could come up with. No surprise from a place with no schools because they’re, “breeding ground[s] for soulless Commies”.
Besides the basic Southern folks you would expect to live in town, there are the upper-class hillbillies who wear gator-skin overalls and rhinestone suits, hipster hillbillies, and the Haulers. The Haulers are revered members of society who bring scraps in from outside Suckhole (i.e. the wreckage of the old world) to use in the community. These scavengers are considered heroes of Suckhole for their trash sorting abilities. The “American Pickers” would be proud. Of course they have nothing on the sentient moonshine stills who demand hats in exchange for booze. Yeah, I have no idea.
Out in the swamp is Dexter Spikes, a mutant animal/human hybrid that the people of Suckhole consider to be an abomination against “Jeezus” according to the “Byble”. No one ever said the people of Suckhole were literate. Despite being a monkey-lizard-man creature, Dexter is the smartest member of the town even though he lives on the outskirts of it. Semantics. For this reason and possibly a whole slew of others, he is brought in to figure out why the townspeople- men in particular- are being murdered and literally dismembered. That is having their members removed. You just don’t send a boy to do a lizard man’s job.
As if this wasn’t a strange enough world, there is also a tangential story dealing with the Daughters of the Confederacy, a disbanded coven of witches who are working toward a goal of Southern Genesis. There’s the android Succubosa, her sister Sluttenstein created from animals and the skins of fallen Daughters, and their oldest sister Syphilia. The rule of three is alive and well even in bizarro fiction!
Since this story is set in the South, the characters and the occasional omniscient narrator have very distinct accents. On the one hand, it puts you in the mood of the story and gives it a distinct authentic flair- albeit one bordering on parody. On the other, it can get grating and take you out of the story if you can’t get adjusted to the dialogue. For me, it was oftentimes annoying. My brain just didn’t like the improper use of the English language. It was like the cast of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was living inside my head.
Despite being a bizarro novel not everything is fun and games. Instead, through the extremely intelligent “monster” Dexter Spikes, Barbee explores the South, their missteps in history, and how the people of Suckhole worked their way around these problems to continue living their simple little lives. It was nice to see him put a little weight on American history in particular, the atrocities we have caused and the ways in which our country deals with them through the scope of Suckhole. You can have your bizarro and explore meaningful historical imperatives too.
-Interesting alternative history take on the Civil War
-High on satire toward the South (i.e. ridiculous yet disparaging beliefs)
-Great to see how Barbee explores the misdeeds of history
-Southern accents can get grating/incredibly annoying
-Plot has a tendency to feel a little draggy in parts
If bizarro has one thing in spades it’s the ability to house insane worlds. This narrative is no exception. From the alternate post-apocalyptic South to the scene building landscapes, Barbee does an amazing job setting the tone for readers. If anything, he definitely introduces us to a strange, extremely hyper-aware version of the South. Southerners may not like the take on their culture, but this left leaning Northerner definitely got a kick out of it.