Book review: Garbage Man, by Joseph D’Lacey

April 16, 2009 by
Filed under: Book reviews 

garbage-manIn 2008 Joseph D’Lacey unlocked the pen and set free MEAT, a dystopian and possibly post-apocalyptic novel that coupled religious cults and corrupt governance with unspeakable food production sources and techniques – authoritarian hierarchies and processes  enabling the isolated town of Abyrne to survive without help from an outside world that might not even be there.

D’Lacey’s second novel, Garbage Man, takes us straight to the seeds of an impending environmental apocalypse, allowing us to watch as its roots spread intractably throughout the town of Shreve, a town that is just like any other in today’s United Kingdom.

Mason Brand is an outsider, a man who turned his back on society and his once successful career as a photographer. Living in the deepest countryside, with an old farmer as his guide, Brand learnt about himself, about the nature of nature and its relationship with man. He understands nature evolves to survive, that its processes cannot be predicted and that it simply doesn’t sit back and take abuse. He’s heard and responded to ‘the calling’. Now, giving society one last chance before he retreats forever into the wilds, he lives quietly in Shreve, shunned by almost everyone in the town, the town eccentric.

Shreve sits next to a massive landfill site, a noxious influence when the wind blows in the direction of the town. This influence is spreading, the land unable to cope with the rubbish and the poisonous chemicals being pumped into the earth. And when this brew also contains unwanted human matter, and is imbued with malicious intent, guilt and greed, it shouldn’t be surprising that a strange hybridised life-form, the fecalith, emerges from the sticken ground. Mason Brand has seen the signs; once again he’s heard the calling, and this time it’s right on his doorstep, it has a message and a command he cannot deny.

I loved Brand’s character, a figure I immediately found myself able to associate with during these harsh concretised times. After a solid week’s work, go for a walk, out of earshot of traffic if possible, and feel that money/work/time focus flow out of you to be replaced by whatever you allow… It’s a simple thing to do, but there’s certainly the ability for all of us to hear ‘the calling’ in one form or another, no matter where you live, or what your feelings are for the countryside.

D’Lacey’s especially adept at showing us the everyday stresses that afflict Shreve’s teenagers, their blossoming but untrusting relationships, their already jaded world-views, the parental and peer pressure that blinkers their thoughts, reducing their aspirations to the mundane. This frustration and jealousy threatens to overwhelm at times, (but isn’t that just how the real world works anyway?), but D’Lacey manages the trick of energising his characters through these emotions, making us care for them, or at least stay interested in them.

As the garbage crawls and spreads throughout Shreve the lives of the protagonists draw closer together through Mason Brand, the only one who understands what is about to happen, the man who is mainly responsible for that vital evolutionary stage of the fecalith, the struggle for sentience. Geoff Nelder‘s already suggested that Garbage Man should have been called Gaia’s Revenge as it most definitely shares an outlook with James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis: the earth as a single organism, everything affecting everything else. As with MEAT, there is a strong moral message; a message of caution that D’Lacey interweaves seamlessly with solid horror plotting, without stinting on the gore and cleverly paced action.

Fast becoming the master of contemporary eco-horror, D’Lacey’s voice is absolutely unique in the field; and the final chapters, depicting an evolution of almost biblical proportions are simply stunning.

Garbage Man is published on May 7th 2009 by Bloody Books.

Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey (The Absence) are celebrating the publication of their second novels with a tour of some haunted locations around the United Kingdom; and with readings and signings at the Wood Green Bookshop on May 6th, and at Borders on Oxford Street in London on May 7th. They’ll also be promoting the Horror Reanimated website, as well as giving away a limited edition Horror Reanimated chapbook, Echoes, to anyone who attends.

Note: I work with Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey on the Horror Reanimated website.

Comments

Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!