Beetle Brain by Kevin Strange is a strange bizarro horror with strong Cronenberg undercurrents and a very heady feminist approach. It’s a love/hate affair from the get go – beetles attack the planet and their queen is a stripper who likes to have sex. Still with me? It gets better. Said queen, Sue-Ellen, our lovely female lead, is a sadistic little mad person who likes to take revenge on those who wronged her. I personally found Beetle Brain to be an exciting, albeit bizarre trip down WTF Lane. You get what you signed up for and I guess that’s what makes the novel so enthralling. In fact, I rushed through the book just so I could gobble up the climax and denouement. There are a couple of missteps plot wise, especially with the advent of extra characters who served no real purpose in the end.
But hey! Who’s counting?
Billed as “a strange novel”- literally (Kevin Strange wrote the book) and figuratively. It doesn’t make any real sense and that’s what I loved about it. Beetle Brain is so outlandish and bizarre that you have to search high and low to find a foothold. But dear God, when that foothold is found, it doesn’t let up. You’re stuck in a strange (get it?) world with beetles, vaginas, penises and one of the most peculiar lead characters I’ve ever come across. Somehow it works. The story thrusts and burns and blends into itself like an unfolding lotus flower. Here, there and everywhere are strange (I’ll stop) characters with unorthodox back stories, insidious motives and awful revenge schemes. They come together in this gutsy melting pot of a book, forced to survive their own oddities and shortcomings. Without letting spoilers slip, all I’d say is that people die. Often. Suddenly. Ungodly. There’s death, sex and beetles. What more do you need?
And then there were the technicalities. They came along and bumped the book down the praise ladder. Firstly, Strange uses uppercase letters in dialogue to express emphasis. This is a big no-no. Never, ever use capital letters to make your characters yell! There’s italics, adverbs and adjectives for that. Also, don’t let the dialogue slip away into ludicrous tète-a-tète – allow the dialogue to marinate and breathe before piling it all on like a slapstick comedy. Secondly, I spotted several punctuation and repetitive word errors. Not much, but enough to be a deterrent. And lastly, we need to speak about the climax, Mr. Strange. It felt convoluted and rushed. A little more buildup would have given this novel just what it needed.
Aside from the pedantic technicalities, I can’t fault Strange on the rest of this brilliant book.
I want more. No, I need more!
RATING: 4 / 5