CHARLEE JACOB AND THE ART OF GOING TOO FAR
CHARLEE JACOB is a four-time Bram Stoker Award winning writer from Texas, specializing in REALLY dark novels, short stories, and poetry. And when I say REALLY, I mean REALLY REALLY REALLY DARK, LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN DARK BEFORE.
Jacob is known for a couple of different things. One is that she has a poet’s soul, and the writing in her short stories is just breathtaking and darkly beautiful. The other is that her novels are amongst the most disturbing ever written in the horror genre. Her work is severely hardcore stuff.
I’d never heard of Charlee Jacob before when someone told me that her novel DREAD IN THE BEAST opened with the single most horrific image ever. I thought to myself, yeah right, sure it does. And guess what? It opens with the most disturbing thing I’ve ever read in a horror novel. Bar none. And then it goes on to be the story of the return of The Goddess of Waste, and the King of the Wasters. It is really horrific, with some insane imagery and a cast of characters that not even a mother could love.
I had been more impressed by that book’s chutzpah than its actual finished form, and wondered what Jacob’s short fiction would be like. So I picked up her collection GUISES and was blown-away by the style and language, even as the stories deal with very distressing and horrific things. I was impressed enough I thought I’d try one more novel.
With a name like HAUNTER, I figured perhaps Jacob had decided to court a more mainstream audience with her 2003 novel. Oh man, I could not have been more wrong. HAUNTER is the single most depraved, insanely dark, and bizarre thing I’ve ever read. With this one, she fully fuses her ability to go WAY WAY out into the dark, with her poet’s dexterity with language, to amazing effect.
In a nutshell, the book concerns a new drug called Soma that’s shown up in the streets of Cambodia, that turns anyone who takes it into a literally glowing being of pure bliss. The Cambodian drug lords don’t like it, and hire mercenaries to find and massacre who ever is behind the drug. And things go completely bonkers.
It has a nasty nihilist aura to it for the first half and I almost stopped on several occasions. But then… It becomes almost beautiful and spiritual, of all things? WHAT?! Yeah, totally snuck up. As someone who has studied Buddhism, it’s easy to give lip service to an idea like in order to become enlightened, one has to burn off all the accrued negative karma of thousands of past lives. In the book, basically, that’s what Soma does–it burns off all negative karma, ALL AT ONCE. Jacob’s descriptions of what this process would feel like is the most hellish thing I’ve ever read. And, I feel like it gave me real insight, rather than just nastiness for nastiness’ sake. There is an undercurrent of Hindu spirituality in HAUNTER that is unlike anything I’ve ever run across in a horror novel, and in the end I came to appreciate the book, even as it exhausted me emotionally.
So, my friends. I had to stop reading Charlee Jacob after these three books, because I don’t think my poor little mind is up to the challenge. Her stuff is in a whole other realm of hardcore horror, and that taste was enough for me. That being said, I must also say that she is a genius-level writer and one of the most original in the whole field of dark fiction.
You’ve been warned…