I’m feeling a bit vitriolic today, because reasons. So I thought I’d dig out something I wrote a while back for a friend’s project that ultimately didn’t happen. It’s book review. I will provide two caveats about the review. First, it is not a kind review. Second, the text is a rough draft. I wrote it immediately after putting the book down, and sent it to the friend in question so she could decide if she wanted to go anywhere near it. Since it didn’t wind up seeing the light of day I’ve never gone back to read, let alone revise, the result. Many of the mistakes that are undoubtedly there are most likely the result of a stroke induced by the book under review. Enjoy, or don’t – I’m off to set my head on fire.
Mark Nykanen’s The Bone Parade holds an honor that had previously been reserved for Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter; which makes it one of the two most meretricious pieces of pap I have ever had the displeasure of reading through.
At the heart of The Bone Parade we find Ashley Strassler, self-absorbed whiner, darling of the art world, and serial murder. During a visit to Bhaktapur, young Strassler suffered an epiphany in which he realized that his life’s work was to depict the human body in extremis; in particular during the extremity of terror. He has turned this revelation into a successful career built around a series entitled Family Planning, a series which has already received eight entries, and is scheduled to receive its ninth. Each of these eight groups of sculptures depicts a family in terror. A family which Strassler kidnapped, assigned a regiment of diet and exercise, and then subjected to various torture and rape before their final demise encased in alginate; alginate which he uses to make a mold for the later bronze sculpture. After this, and featuring a suitably improvised head, the sculptures are presented to the world; while the skeletons of Strassler’s victims are decorate the improbable basement in the barn of his murder ranch.
Opposing Strassler we find plucky, thirty-year-old Lauren Reed, sculptor (in plaster), and professor of art, and her soon to be love interest Ry, a former television journalist (like Nykanen himself) who has selected both Lauren and Strassler as two of the four subjects in a book about contemporary sculptors. What pulls Lauren into opposition with Strassler is not that her one interesting feature as a character is that she recognizes Strassler’s work for the tedious ode to self-absorption that it is, but rather, it is Lauren’s star pupil Kerry which provides the plot its motive force.
Strassler, you see, has decided that yes, he is willing to have Kerry come out to his murder ranch and work as his intern. He bases this decision on the fact that Kerry included a picture of herself in a halter top with her portfolio, and this clearly means that she wants to suck his cock. Let’s go over that one more time. The meticulous serial killer invites the coed out to his murder ranch, during a period of time when he is actively “sculpting” his ninth entry in the Family Planning series, because he thinks he will get sex.
I could live with Strassler’s self aggrandizement, incoherent pathology, and masturbating while he thinks of buttfucking his the 16 year old Diamond Girl (daughter and oldest child of family number nine, and a raging sociopath). To some degree I could even find this more tolerable than Lindsay’s tediously monologuing, equally-incoherent Dexter (were Dexter actually the sociopath actually the sociopath he goes on at length about being he wouldn’t give two shits about “the Code of Harry,” but I digress…) since while Strassler is one of the viewpoint characters he is clearly not intended to be the protagonist. I could handle the tedious sex scenes (Strassler’s frequent masturbation, Strassler and Diamond Girl, Diamond Girl and Kerry, Lauren and Ry). I could even accept the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable.
Yet I find myself unable to swallow the gaping plot hole of Strassler inviting Kerry to his murder ranch, Strassler forgetting to lock the barn so Kerry finds his secret torture chamber, Lauren’s faithful Rottweiler Bad Bad Leroy Brown deciding to dig at the straw so that Lauren finds the secret torture chamber and frees Kerry, all so that she and Ry can eventually find themselves in an explosive climax worthy of (and as improbable as) any Hollywood offering. Not to mention that the last page of the narrative features Diamond Girl replicating Strassler’s M.O. of visiting a home and gaining entry by explaining he’d like one last chance to visit his childhood home.
In toto, The Bone Parade is a weakly plotted, inelegantly executed assault on the senses. While it successfully manages to make one hate Strassler this is less for his depredations than for his tedious incoherence, and the other characters are hardly more likable. Were I forced to rate it from one to five stars, I would call The Bone Parade being hit in the groin with a porcupine while a facehugger violates my esophagus.