Eraserhead Press, 154 pages, paperback, $10.95
It’s hard for an author to make a truly bizarre story engaging from the start because the strange elements present work naturally against suspension of disbelief. Similarly, pulling off a second-person narrative is something not many authors attempt because the proximity it creates with the reader tends to backfire once bad/strange things start to happen and natural responses kick in.
Despite all this, Tiffany Scandal successfully combines both elements in her latest, Shit Luck, and the result, especially when you take into consideration how different it is from her previous effort, Jigsaw Youth, is a bizarro novel that demands to be devoured quickly and that shows why, when it comes to entertainment, few things can beat a good novella.
Shit Luck follows a nameless protagonist who is having the worst day of her life. True to Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong does indeed go wrong, and then things get worse. It seems like the universe itself is conspiring against her. The morning is a long nightmare that includes getting late into the office and which eventually leads to a bad afternoon and an even worse night that starts with messing up her hair and going to a party that will change her life and eventually devolves into something far worse. Unfortunately, that far worse thing, which come would consider the end, turns out to be nothing but a new beginning under equally horrific circumstances. Oh, and this woman is you.
Scandal proved she had bizarro chops with her first book, There’s No Happy Ending. However, she moved away from weird literature and took her writing to new heights with her sophomore effort, Jigsaw Youth, which garnered her a lot of critical praise. Looking at that second book, it is strange that she went back to her bizarro roots for her third novel. That being said, Shit Luck’s DNA is full of elements that can be found in both preceding works while also being a unique animal. While all the weirdness of bizarro literature is there and the book has a few passages that will satisfy lovers of hardcore horror, there is also something very human about the narrative, something that speaks volumes about the way we deal with crappy situations and that explores the way we sometimes look at a situation we’re going through and start processing it, but we don’t do much to change it.
To say that this is an entertaining book is an understatement. Shit Luck moves forward at breakneck speed, packs an unexpected emotional punch, and brings in elements from slasher narratives, psychological thrillers, dreamlike stories, hardcore horror (a special scene that involves blood and drowning is worth the price of admission), and tales from beyond the grave. Despite all this, the most important thing about this short novel is that proves Scandal can shift gears at will and that her growth as an author is applicable to all the genres she wants to play with.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Zero Saints, Gutmouth, Hungry Darkness, and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.