Friday, October 10, 2008

Haunter, by Charlee Jacob

(pb; 2003)

From the back cover:

"From the crumbling ruins of a Cambodian jungle temple to the arid canyons of west Texas, exotic demons of the ancient past collide with more modern devils. Crippled residents in a small Cambodian village are trying to rebuild their lives in a shattered country. Just as it seems they cannot go on, their god returns to them, providing hope and a dream of survival.

"But their god has returned in the body of a former American GI, and their hope for peace comes in a drug that opens the door to unfold horrors. Their beautiful nirvana waits only at the end of a road traveled by nightmares. It is a world peopled by the bizarre and the unearthly, in which damnation -- and redemption -- can come in the most terrifying forms."


The first few chapters of Haunter are a fever dreams, phantasmagoric swirls of grisliness, Vietnam War-era aggression and Hindu faith-based horrors as a new avatar of Shiva comes into being -- it's initiallly difficult to follow, but word-dazzling and poetic (as is much of the rest of the novel). After those first few chapters, the narrative settles down into a more straight-forward, solid tale.

The tale is this: Harry Tyler, an American soldier, who enjoys his condition of priapism (he has constant erections) and banging anything with an orifice, is in Cambodia, specifically the territory of Phnom Yohp, when he rapes a strange golden half-animal half-human creature discovered in an ancient Hindu temple (Nagas Wat). Harry immediately becomes possessed by the four-armed animalistic creature's deity, Shiva (you see, that creature was Shiva's last incarnation). This sets Harry on a gory, exotic path that inevitably re-joins with one of his brothers' (Elliott), who's also a soldier, and later, an often-merciless merc-for-hire.

Harry and Elliott are not alone. Along for the crazy, kill-f***-devour ride are the limb-missing Camobodian denizens of Phnom Yohp, who'd initially resurrected Shiva's last incarnation, and a crime boss, Tak, who's looking get a cut of the wild, truly original drug (Soma) that Harry/Shiva and his followers have loosed upon the world: Soma leaves its users literally golden-orbed and sitting in the lotus position, completely shutting out the outside "real" world, with no need of food, water or human company.

Jacob's writing is helter-skelter with mindmelting splatterific erotic visions, and depictions of perversion and cruelty -- few characters are innocent in this original work, and even that innocence is quickly diminished by nihilistic darkness.

Gripping, spectacular read with an oddly transcendant finish, this: worth owning, as long as you're not easily queasy or looking for a comforting read.

Check it out!

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