By Simon Jacobs, 248 pgs.
Stunningly literary, a bit horrific, and punk as all hell, Palaces by Simon Jacobs is just a little bit unforgettable. At first glance, it seems like your run-of-the-mill crust punk love story: a couple runs away from it all, have only each other in some weird little New York squat, loses said New York squat, and runs away from it all again… You get the picture. After this relatively “normal” beginning, Palaces rabbit-holes into a surreal trip through space and perception.
Richmond punks John and Joey hop on a train and chaos ensues in a series of abandoned mansions full of wolves, rooms painted like assorted gore and viscera, lost children, and the same knife, over and over again. Part fever dream, Palahniuk-esque horror novel, and meditation on relationships and distance, Palaces defies all expectations and demands to be seen. It doesn’t care what you think. Action-packed sentences both drag on and draw the reader in; it left me lost but desperate to know what was going on. Clocking in at just under 250 pages, the novel is unexpectedly dense. It’s less the kind of book you read on a lazy Sunday afternoon and more the kind of thing you read and tell all your friends just how deep and enlightening it is, when in reality you had no idea what was going on for the majority of the book.
That being said, even if it’s a bit confusing and dense, it’s a hell of an adventure to take. It would be deeply enjoyable to fans of books and movies like Cloud Atlas, Cat’s Cradle, or other works that make you work for your intellectual bounty. Jacobs creates an atmosphere you can’t help sinking fully into, even when it makes you want to vomit or turn away. Unraveling the truth of this work is rewarding and absolutely worth it, but I’m also a gigantic nerd for that sort of thing, so maybe take my words on the matter with a grain of salt. –Jimmy Cooper (Two Dollar Radio, twodollarradio.com)