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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun, dark & weird collection, July 15, 2009
This review is from: Polluto 2: Apocalypses and Garden Furniture (Hardcover)
Bizzaro fiction is something of a new experience for me. I've read small bits of it before, but it's not a genre I consider myself well versed in so this is going to be a less neutral review that takes the experiences of an inexperienced reader into account. What I'm looking for in a good weird story is intelligence despite absurdness, a story I'm capable of understanding despite skewing the idea of reality and an emotional response with some aspect of the story.

Polluto # 2, dubbed "Apocalypses & Garden Furniture", is a hefty collection of tales.

First off, "The End" by Dave Migman, is a short and to-the-point tale of an apocalypse that's worthy of the more traditional science fiction tales on the subject. As a quick introduction to Polluto it's a solid, enjoyable tale.

"Scenes of Creation" by Grant Wamack centers on a very interesting idea, an artist/creator's discards taking on a brutal-filled life of their own. A commentary on creativity controlling the creator, it wiggles into too much for my tastes at brief moments, but is otherwise solid.

"I'm Going Through Changes" also by Dave Migman is similar to many "crazy-serial killer" stories one finds in the horror genre. However it possesses a beauty and meaning that other such stories lack, mostly because it's not trying to be brutal, flashy or horrific. It's just being.

Chet Gottfriend's "The Ragnarok Seduction" is deviously hilarious, and worth the price of this issue alone. The tale of Jack, a much-suffering husband to a Valkyrie who is a bit over-enthused about the impending end of the world it's very clever and amusing from beginning to end. A highly recommended read.

"Twins" by Rosalia Sanfilippo is an excellent poem that challenges the icons of religion and our need for and perceptions of higher powers. It's also very readable and understandable, with good imagery.

Next, Steve Redwood's "The Burden of Sin" is a parallel to the Highlander movies and television shows. Not quite a copy, it uses the familiar reference to make more musings about religions and the ideas of belief and sin. When McLoud, a Scottish brute and one of the last immortals, begins badgering Foplamov, the other last immortal who has used his gift to enjoy life rather than to build himself up into a monstrous fighting machine, Foplamov hatches a plan to use the true believer's own fears to even the odds between them. What follows is a strange, paradoxical tale of belief and the irrational power it holds over people.

"Cracking Nuts with Jan Hammer" by Rhys Hughs is a study on Hell as told from a flat, compassionless progressive rock musician. During the course of the story readers learn that all prog rockers go to Hell and serve food to other, better musicians, and that the lead character suspects the Devil himself might be a prisoner in Hell. But nothing much is done with any of these ideas, leaving the story with an overall noncommittal feel.

"Murk" by Robert Lamb is a long and vivid Elder Gods sort of tale about a man who runs into something terrible and strange in the twisting tunnels of the subway. Rescued from the subway wreck he thinks everything is fine until he starts to gain weight and feelings the incredible urge to return to the scene of the crime. This tale flirts with heavy-handedness but mostly remains on the side of dark, toxic, unknowable storytelling.

"Gloomy Countdowns" by William Doreski is a poem that takes several different versions, or scenes, of the end times. Some religion capitalized, some the bitter destruction of beautiful things. They don't quite come together, but each stands fine on its own.

"Hard Landscapes" by P.J. Nolan is another mini-collection of poetry, but this one lost me. The words seemed to collide and refuse to melt together into visual scenes. Only the last part jumped off the page, reflecting on the story's over all title.

Deb Hoag's "Church of the Bitter Raygun" misses for me, getting tangled in its attempts at clever use of phrases, familiar in our time, in a post apocalyptic world. But I found no deeper meaning, or even a world setting, just a mix and match of science fiction aspects and brand names.

Next is "Zombie Love Song" by Adam Lowe, a different kind of zombie tale. Set in India, it's a biohorror testament to the core nature of the world, beauty and rot.

"Love and Gasoline" by Michael Colangelo is a post apocalyptic love story, of sorts. It's purposefully shallow and hopeless, mirroring the plot itself and reinforcing it.

Deb Hoag's "Meatloaf of the Apocalypse" is an almost -sweet tale of genetic mutation, nuclear irradiation and a lonely man. It's partly about the junk we fill our bodies with and what happens when you leave a man home alone and he gets bored. Dark, and it shifts the magazine back to a amusing tone.

"The Art of Survival" by Steven Archer is a rambling piece on the nature of art, quoting a number of truisms that are also found elsewhere. From there Polluto moves on to "Ahlana Demona" by MP Johnson. The title character is a pre-op male-to-female transgendered monster hunter who sweeps up a zombie rights activist into her attempts to find out who has been killing people and blaming innocent zombies. The story is a long rip on urban fantasy, complete with a female lead that's too butch to really be a woman, and a monster love story. Its jumps of logic, cliché baddies and convenient breaks of plot only add to the farce feel of the story.

"The Man Who Flirted with Mother Nature" by Mike Philbin reveals a serious problem with sex issues, as it sets Mother Earth up as a rapist and torturer and humans as her poor, ignorant sex toys. The lead character has a "I'm the only one that is awesome enough to see the truth" attitude and the prose itself lacks a flow and is at times wordy rather than precise. This matches the whole structure of the story, which makes its point quickly, then proceeds to keep reiterating it for seven more pages, killing any interest it manages to build.

"Sex, Lies, Religion" by Micci Oaten of Paparazzi [...], a nonfiction piece about being yourself comes next. Following is "Camille O'Sullivan: Trickery or Magic" by Patti Plinko, another nonfiction piece on the feeling of being a subject rather than the artist/performer for once.

Then comes "Hobo Poet" by RC Edrington, a triad of punk rock poems and "Live Without a Net: Self-Loathing" also by Edrington. The latter is a prose piece that gives a frighteningly real glimpse inside the mind and life of an addict. This one is one of the darkest and most horrific tales of the issue.

The next fiction tale is "Agent Apocalypse" by Dave Migman. True to title it's a tale of a man who is trying to push the apocalypse closer, not through elaborate measures, but by simple, annoying ones that leave the rest of us wondering if people do these things on purpose. This story says boldly, "Yes, I do."

"Emerging" by Ellen Kombiyil is a final poetic offering, a slice of post apocalyptic that becomes beauty for one of our most underrated icons.

Finally comes "The Beginning" by Dave Migman, one short final word on the apocalypse that reduces it not to a cosmic end, but to one more part of the a natural cycle.

I found Polluto #2 to be an overall enjoyable read, most of the stories containing all the truth and humor I'd hoped to find. The number of good stories to lackluster makes this one a good buy in my opinion, with a nice re-read quality.
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