Autumn Christian’s existential-dystopian nightmare CROOKED GOD MACHINE is unflinching in its dark portrayal of a planet oppressed by an insane God. It’s as if David Lynch said no fiction could outweird ERASHERHEAD, and Christian said, hold my beer.
The result is something bizarro, something horror, something philosophical and religious. When I started reading it, I snagged on the weird elements and wondered whether my willing suspension of disbelief was up for the investment, but the story keeps turning up the weird volume until by the end it goes well beyond 11, and it wasn’t long before I was thoroughly hooked on this bleak drug.
So here’s the story. Charles is a good man hoping to love and be loved in a world ruled by a God intent on punishing his subjects and soon ending it. Monsters roam the woods, vast machines wreak Biblical havoc in scheduled plagues, Hell shuttles round up people to send below based on quotas, and God screams from the TV all day when a show isn’t on promoting implants that keep the body active while the brain passes into a decade-long sleep. As the world slowly ends all around him, Charles sets out to resist and finally confront God based on secret knowledge that this was all not what was intended by the original creators.
The story is titillating in its uncompromising weirdness and destruction of sanity, but it’s pretty bleak, though a counterpoint to nihilism is expressed as hope even if it’s undeserved. While Christian’s world is clearly insane and seemingly random, there’s a strange internal logic to the story that ties it together and infuses it with meaning. The result is a dark and titillating read that’s strangely fun. My only big criticism is the story would benefit from editing, as there are numerous typos, missing words, etc. that might distract some readers.
If you think you might dig a strong fusion of bizarro and horror, check it out.