Remember to Recycle
Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship, as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters, each crafted to be as unique as they are controversial. Author Tantra Bensko unapologetically invites readers into the thick and gritty atmosphere of this nefarious nation on the brink of war. As seedy government organizations work through mass media to manipulate the opinions of the general public, three oddball outcasts must struggle to uncover their own personal truths, regardless of how dark and uncomfortable that truth may be.
There is an oddity and nuance to the style in which Bensko develops the story, weaving the intricate and disharmonious lives of the ragtag crew together. The characters are so individually strange, perplexing me at times to debate whose personal version of the truth I should put my stock into. What they lack in relatability, they more than make up for in personality. For instance, there is little for me to relate to in a neurotic homeless man suffering from a multiple personality disorder, but nevertheless, I found myself rushing to reach his chapters, drinking in the off-the-cuff humor and casual profanity of his perspective. Each character in the disjointed trio is unique and realized to the point of feeling authentic, boasting a well-rounded checklist of endearing qualities as well as anxieties and vices – certainly enough to make you love or hate them, respectively.
Although the modern literature lover in me appreciates the quirky and informal tone of Bensko’s writing, I do have to admit that I struggled a bit with the sporadic pace. The narrative voices are wildly different between each character, and on occasion, the sudden shift felt so abrupt that it confused me for just a moment. Bensko lovingly lingers in the details of certain interactions for quite some time, while briskly splicing other important moments into the middle of a quick paragraph. The revolving narrative among the trio is certainly a testament to Bensko’s strength in voices, but it didn’t make for the quickest read. Still a charming one though!
I felt a bit sheepish upon realizing that Remember to Recycle is actually the second installment in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Whoops! I suppose that’s always one tell of a good book though – if it can stand alone within a larger collection. Without knowing any of the events from the previous title, readers are still able to quickly grasp the tone and plot of this work, even within the steep setting of an economic fallout. Benkso poured such a generous amount of attention into the thoughts and motives of the characters, which served well to support this work standing on its own.
Overall, this was an undeniably interesting read, although the density of the political theme felt a bit heavy to me at times. I’d recommend it to readers with interests in the dystopian and psychological horror tropes, that also have an appreciation for quirky writing styles.
Pages: 285 | ASIN: B06XY4CF1S
Posted in Book Reviews, Three Stars
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Grim Reaper Searches For A Soulmate
Limbo is a story of a man who accidentally becomes the Grim Reaper and is the most highly revered killer in Limbo. What was the inspiration for this original and fascinating idea?
I wanted to write something that Clive Barker might like. Only 50% joking. The other 50% started with a simple sentence that didn’t mean much: the Grim Reaper searches for a soulmate. Everything spun out of that. The name Grim the Reaper popped into my head eventually, which made him feel like a starting point for a character and led to a bunch of meaty questions:
“Well, what if the mythical figure of Death was just one of many?”
“What if Grim used to have a life? Yes, he was John Grim. What the hell happened to him?”
“Who or What made John Grim this way, why did It create this perverse society?”
One led to the next and it all just made me really curious. I wanted to answer those questions by telling myself the story because I’d always dreamed of writing a horror novel and it seemed like the kind that wouldn’t bore me into not finishing it. I wanted to write something that to me would be strange and different, poetic at times and gruesome at others, something that felt big and conceptual. The kind of story I’d want to read. So I crammed a ton of my inspirations in there. Nerds like me that have a keen eye will pick up the overt references or subtle nods to Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Candyman, Hellraiser, Preacher, Nightbreed/Cabal, Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End…there’s a bunch more. Just little treats for horror fans inspired by the same stuff as I am.
The TL;DR version — There’s a lot of autobiography in this book, and this excerpt of the still-living John Grim holding his first freshly completed manuscript sums it up:
What he recalled most vividly about that simple moment was the pride, the heft of the pages in his hands, heavy with the monster that lived and breathed inside of them. The buoyancy of seeing his insides spilled in black ink on white pages, dreaming of the story being passed lip to lip.
I felt that the tone of the novel was dark and I appreciated the grim consistency. Did you plan the tone and direction of the novel before writing or did it come out organically as you were writing?
Darkness in all its forms is just fascinating to me. It’s the same reason heavy metal pleases my ear and happy major key music grates on me. Happy, clean cut endings, perfect heroes that are morally incorruptible, all that kind of stuff bores me at best, irritates me at worst. But I still believe in a form of the lighter side of things. A big part of the overall concept of Limbo before I put pen to paper was balance. I wanted the emotional moments to matter because they were born out of darkness. So I tried to push both sides as far as I could go. I know the results aren’t for everyone, because there are some pretty messed up scenes in Limbo, but there’s also this tragic story of two people who truly loved each other and fell into this insane situation that I think has a satisfying, unconventionally beautiful ending. So, definitely intentional, but thankfully it all came together pretty organically, while eating mostly non-organic chips. Chips were a big part of writing Limbo.
Grim is not the only character in Limbo. There are also friends, strangers, and even deities. What was your favorite character to write for?
I’ll have to cheat. It’s a split between the Maker of Limbo and Dora, John Grim’s sarcastic and strong re-incarnated soulmate Dora. Spoiler alert, but Limbo’s physical landscape and the Maker of Limbo are one and the same, cobbled together with endless miles of dead flesh and filled with an insane, vast web of consciousness made up of countless distinct personalities. I pushed myself to make the different physical forms the Maker appears in surprising, sometimes shocking, sometimes funny or sad. Writing this single, incomprehensible entity/deity with this assortment of both coherent and incoherent voices was incredibly fun. Dora I loved just as much because I wanted her to be a real badass. Though Grim the Reaper is the titular character searching for her, Dora is the real hero of Limbo. Brave, unrelentingly honest and endearingly bitter, someone who does what needs to be done, no matter the consequences. It’s hard to say more about her without ruining the surprises she brings, but suffice to say I wish Dora was someone I knew in real life.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be published?
I’m splitting my time between two projects. One is a big collection of charcoal illustrations of monsters, demons, ghouls and oddities I wish I saw in my sleep. The other is a big collection of one sentence horror stories called Brief, Horrible Moments. Aiming for late 2016 or early 2017, but here’s three stories from the collection so far that are on the ‘lighter’ side of the spectrum:
It laid its hands on my shoulders, still staring at me from across the lake.
Pulling the long black hair out from the drain didn’t bother me until I realized it was attached to something.
My father was causing a scene as usual, slurring his words and attacking pew after pew of terrified mourners who had gathered for his funeral.
Author Links: Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads | Website
This is a story of a man who accidentally becomes Grim the Reaper, the most highly revered killer in Limbo. A place beyond time and space as we know it where psychopaths compete for perverse honour and status as they carry out their deathly duties. As Grim struggles to hold onto the memories of the life he’s lost, he discovers that the insane being who shaped him (and the course of existence itself) may have sinister plans for the one thing he values most. In Limbo, the end is only the beginning.
Posted in Interviews
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When The Patient Is Not The Sick One!
Vera Mortina is a medical fiction novel about a sordid doctor that begins work at a medical practice where strange and deadly things begin to happen. The tag line, ‘when the patient is not the sick one’, is chillingly appropriate. What was your inspiration for Dr. Vera Mortina’s character and her troubled disposition?
I interact with a number of professionals who have rather troubling dispositions, some are physicians, some are nurses, administrators, patients, lawyers and others. How little do we really know about those “difficult” people we have to work with every day? This led to a fictional account developed on the theme of Dangerous Doctors.
There was a lot of time spent crafting the character traits in this novel. What was the most important factor for you to get right in your characters?
The most difficult and yet the most crucial characteristic of Dr Vera Mortina was to convincingly portray how she could function so well as a medical professional and yet be so dangerously disturbed. How she could create such a believable façade that even her partner wanted to get closer to her, and not run away. Her partner was so skilled in his profession, yet he was really blind for a long time, he was drawn to Dr Vera like a moth attracted to the candle light.
I felt that there were a lot of great twists and turns throughout the novel. Did you plan this before writing the novel, or did the twists present themselves as you were writing?
I conceived the general outline and worked on the development as a thought project for a long time before writing it down and developing from an outline. It all revolved around Dr Vera, and she led me to uncover some of the dangerous things she was really up to.
Vera Mortina is a part of your Dangerous Doctors series. What will the next book in that series be about and when will it be published?
At this point, my writing efforts are going to frequently revisiting the writing of the other three Dangerous Doctors, to refine the presentations and address many of the questions you asked above. This includes the theme of excess commercialization of in vitro fertilization clinics in The Surrogate, how the paranoia of aging could effect a physician in Her Charm was Contageous, and the relentless desire for immortality and money in a biotech researcher in BloodBird. Fostering believability is always an issue.
Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon
Chosen in a rush, Dr. Vera Mortina joins a small medical group, but without adequate exploration of her rather unusual background. Her sudden arrival is accompanied by acrimony, odd and disturbing idiosyncratic behaviors, and the unexpected deaths of several patients and staff. The closer Dr. Richard Bates looks into Vera, with her violent thoughts and bizarre hobbies, the more imperiled his own life becomes.
Posted in Interviews
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