Ginger Nuts of Horror
Who doesn’t appreciate euthanasia with a side of vomit?
First and foremost, author Stephen Kozeniewski can write and write well. Readers who appreciate tightly crafted syntax embedded with carefully plotted literary devices (e.g. theme, symbolism, satire, etc.) really need to grab one of his stories.
As for Billy and the Cloneasaurus, Mr. Kozeniewski plunges the reader into what most will deem a dystopian future, where clones have taken the place of typical human beings. As many dystopian-esque stories do, time becomes one of the largest internal and external conflicts in the piece. Consequently, I really liked a lot of the object symbolism this book provides—everything from a typical time piece, to a watch that looks standard but is made with high-end steel and crystal and only worn by aristocracy, to a decanting bank with slurry machine that recycles bodies per a carefully scripted time schedule for cannibalistic purposes. All of the aforesaid tie directly into the thread of time and segue deeper into motifs like age discrimination, maintaining the status quo, and the fragility of life.
An intelligent look into the miniscule window of life, this novel initially circumvents the competition by reminding readers of the reality of chance circumstance. But as shrewd and crafty authors are wont to do, Mr. Kozeniewski will spin the aforementioned into an ironic twist deeper into the book, enjoyably catching readers off guard.
Readers who have a penchant for transcendentalist literature will enjoy some of the carpe diem sentiment underlying this book. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the novel:
“790—the new, the old, the original, the replacement, the only one left, and the only one there would ever be again, he vowed silently to himself—clenched the watch of the poor, useless, one-day old dead kid in his hand. He vowed that, from that day forth, he would never be forced into the role that had been pre-assigned for him. He would think outside the boundaries of what he had been told he could accomplish. He would finally be an individual, and honor his replacement’s memory.”
The transcendentalist philosophy rings true as the book’s protagonist, Billy, decides he will buck the trend of the typical 365-day life span of a clone. Hence, the fiber of Billy’s day-to-day routine will be tested as he pushes beyond the acceptable 1984-style limits of Williamerica.
Some readers may struggle with the substitution of names for numbers, but about one-third of the way into the read the characters blend seamlessly into memory. In addition there’s some “Heinz” 57 number symbolism readers will undoubtedly discover and find charming towards the end of the book. With that being said, the first part of Billy and the Cloneasaurus was a little slow for my liking; subsequently, the horror element is extremely subtle. Personally, I like subtle, but I wish the complications and crises entrenched in the story’s rising action would have been a little more profound. As for the book’s title, I’m just going to plead the Bart Simpson—“Aww Man.” Finally, the dialogue between the “William” clones grows somewhat distracting and tiresome as the author’s constructed dialect reads somewhat forced at times, but since this is futuristic pop fiction, maybe that was the intention.
But honestly, who doesn’t like a big old fat satire? Readers who appreciate understated political criticism will enjoy rooting against The Corporation, a government creating FEAR to drive capitalism inside its own borders (this never happens in real life now, does it…sigh). And finally once the reader gets to the halfway point of the story, some mad scientist monster-making takes place. It doesn’t take the reader long to realize that the newly introduced character Wilson has Dr. Frankenstein Complex, which takes the second half of the book into an interesting direction.
The ending was satisfying yet a little too cute for me. I always applaud an unhappy ending of sorts, and I equally understand the purposely satiric action made on the last page; it just didn’t do it for me. But not to worry as horror wears many different hats, and there are plenty of disturbing occurrences flanking the reader from all ends towards the end of the novel. This may not be a traditional read for gore hounds, but plenty of disconcerting scenes, ready to satisfy aficionados of shock and revulsion, are evident.
All in all, this was another pleasurable and intellectual read from a writer who continues to make a name among the ranks of excellent up-and-coming speculative fiction authors.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Six billion identical clones make up the entire population of Earth, and William 790-6 (57th Iteration) is exactly like everybody else. In his one year of life he will toil in suburban mediocrity and spend as much cash as possible in order to please his corporate masters. When 790’s first birthday (and scheduled execution) finally rolls around, a freak accident spares his life.
Living past his expiration date changes 790 profoundly. Unlike other clones he becomes capable of questioning the futility of his own existence. Seeking answers in the wilderness, he discovers a windmill with some very strange occupants, including a freakish, dinosaur-like monstrosity. Which is especially strange since every animal on earth is supposed to be extinct…
Dark, haunting, and blisteringly satirical, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is the story of one “man’s” attempt to finally become an individual in a world of copies.