Cattle Cult! Kill! Kill!: By MP Johnson, 152 pgs. By Matthew Hart

First things first: this ain’t your grandpappy’s love story. In a small Wisconsin town, something strange is afoot. The story follows Remmy, a man in love and unwittingly in over his head. He and his girlfriend Sera are in a car crash on Highway Twenty-Nine. Bare-chested men wearing severed cow heads emerge from the snow and take them prisoner. The floodgates open and Remmy’s world, our world, will never be the same. Bovikraaga, an old god, has been awoken.

This is yet another book that makes me love bizarro fiction. It’s a genre that seems tailored to my love of B-movies, dark humor, and concision. It’s amazing how quickly MP can develop and deliver a story. Sure, there’s blood, cults, spiked pig head flails, and otherworldly corn stocks. However, underneath the gore and guts is a story. A romance. It keeps the character real and moving forward. That is one of my favorite things about bizarro fiction and MP’s storytelling; its and his ability to build characters quickly and non-trivially, to utilize the absence of rules to showcase the timeless ones, and to keep the stress on the latter half of shock value.

The story is fantastically over-the-top but so well-crafted and paced that the absurdity doesn’t prevent you from immersing yourself as it unfolds. It’s like a Tiki drink—lurid and potentially dangerous—but delivered with such a sincere intent on having a good time that you willingly imbibe its devil-may-care debauchery. Its pages almost stick together from all the blood and viscera throughout.

I often have a hard time watching or reading depictions of violence against women. I also unfailingly love any movie with more squib packs than actors and any book with a glossy, embossed cover and an adjective in the title. It’s important for me to be able to try to understand the director/author’s intent. Are they going for titillation, exploitation, realism, eroticism? If it’s not obvious at first blush, then I’m usually onboard. As a reader I want to be engaged with those types of questions. MP is able to be sensitive to a feminist perspective and yet stay true to the amorality inherent in a tale of the bizarre. Cattle Cult! Kill! Kill! is both unapologetic and thoughtful. I can see that MP is making decisions and going on instinct. Bizarro is like pornography; it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it. But unlike the vanilla allusions to anal sex in Lady Chatterly’s Lover, MP alludes to a man fellating two of his captors who have severed eyeballs affixed to the tips of their erections. Lit-rah-chur!

Highly recommended. –Matthew Hart (Strange House Books, roosterrepublicpress.com)