FUNGUS OF THE HEART
Jeremy C. Shipp’s new collection of bizarro short stories Fungus of the Heart contains elements of horror, crime noir, and quite often dark fantasy. Mr. Shipp has a very distinguishable style even amongst the growing number of authors writing bizarro fiction. He manages to be descriptive and concise at the same time all while spinning quick moving and engrossing stories. Fungus of the Heart is not near as dark or horror heavy as Shipp’s previous collection, Sheep and Wolves, relying more on emotional wallop than out and out scares. The thirteen fantastic stories in Fungus of the Heart all share the common theme of relationships. Shipp takes looks at desire and love in always entertaining and unique ways. Each story is unusual and each packs a different feel but the collection as a whole has a personal feel that pulls you in even deeper.
The stories are as follows.
‘The Sun Never Rises in the Big City’ opens the collection with a pulpy noir story complete with a hard edged detective. The main character is working on the death of a ‘rag’ and the story gets weird as it twists towards a crescendo.
The simple title of The Haunted House betrays the complexity of the actual story about a ghost that helps the living deal with traumatic events. Ash is a ghost that possesses the body of his ‘clients’ and on this particular case everyone involved grows in unexpected ways.
Fungus of the Heart is the story of a man struggling to gain the power to free his kidnapped love from the mysterious ‘fortress’. Our hero is a Sentential (body guard) for Protectors (or powerful beings that watch over and keep villages safe). The catch, in order to gain the power he needs he must eat the heart mushroom of a number of noble Protectors.
The Boy in the Cabinet has only a paper cup and Death Cat for friends but he still has a twisted journey of self discovery waiting for him.
One of my personal favorites, Just Another Vampire Story, is anything but common blood sucker lore rehashed and covered with glitter. The story grabs a hold of your heart right away and drags you to a distant cave inhabited by vampires every bit as unique as you would expect from Jeremy C. Shipp. Strong horror with a heart.
Ticketyboo is a place Jeff and Jill go to recover from the trauma caused by a mysterious accident with their parents. This story is a dark genre blurring visit to a surreal world of healing.
The Escapist is the dark fantasy tale of a gnome who escapes from the enemy goblins’ Farm and befriends a gnome general who will stop at nothing to destroy the goblins.
Ula Morales is the story of an antlered daughter of a magic tree who lives in a surreal forest.
Spider House is a quick weird story that deals with war and the trauma it predicates.
Monkey Boy and The Monsters is the fun story of Monkey Boy the monster slayer and it follows him as he battles his foul enemies and learns about family life.
Kevin Donihe, Agape Walrus is the wacky story of an all loving walrus that lives with a zombie polar bear in the hills of east Tennessee. Classic bizarro.
In Kingdom Come a man searches for his missing boy in a world that is haunting, dark, and futuristic.
How to Make A Clown closes this great bizarro collection with the story of a man with a clown in his attic.
I enjoyed some stories more than others but I’m a gore loving horror hound that doesn’t always go for the emotional rollercoaster that a collection like Fungus of the Heart offers. Though not as terrifying as I typically prefer, Mr. Shipp has put together a highly accessible work of bizarro that could gain him fans from all corners of the reading world. I enjoyed this collection and will seek out more of Shipp’s work. His ability to go from whimsical to heart wrenching in only a few short words makes him a talent to watch in my eyes.