(CCLaP is dedicated to reviewing as many contemporary books as possible, including self-published volumes; click here to learn how to submit your own book for possible review, although be warned that it needs to have been published within the last 18 months to be considered. For the complete list of all books reviewed here, as well as the next books scheduled to be read, click here.)
By MP Johnson
Reviewed by Karl Wolff
Fabulo has a great life. He models for romance books and admires his finely sculpted abs. Men and women worship his abs. Along with living in sunny Los Angeles, Fabulo is living the dream. Then one day, he becomes subject to a magical curse. The curse frees his abs and unleashes a monstrous abomination on his stomach. The monstrous thing has finger-shaped teeth, a bad attitude, and orders Fabulo to get him donut frosting.
Meanwhile, each of Fabulo's six abs engage in a person journey. One becomes an actor, one a meth-head, and another becomes part of someone's ass. The ex-model Fabulo takes a swift dive into the psychological abyss, hitting rock bottom, becoming obese, unhygienic, and depressed. But Fabulo won't give up without a fight. He hires a female bounty hunter with robot hands who specializes in finding missing body parts.
The rough outline above belongs to Sick Pack by MP Johnson. The multi-talented Johnson is the author of several pieces of bizarro fiction. He also helms the 'zine Freaktension along with being a B-movie extra and amateur drag queen. (See Dungeons and Drag Queens, a novel that revolves around the everyday dilemma of a Midwest drag queen suddenly thrust into the fantastical realm of mutants, monsters, and barbarian women.) Despite the outrageous nature of bizarro, Sick Pack is a fascinating exploration of human consumption and desire, along with an individual's desire for self-realization. When the abs are on their personal adventures and discovering who they are, Johnson makes it simultaneously ridiculous and touching.
On a personal level, I would rate Sick Pack very high, but bizarro fiction isn't for everyone. Although if you like the cinematic visions of Ed Wood, John Waters, and David Cronenberg, you would probably like bizarro fiction. Johnson masters this outrageous genre by going beyond simple shock and disgust. (But there is plenty of that in Sick Pack, don't you worry.) He gives each ab a touching story and Fabulo's existential crisis tugs at the heartstrings. It's the literary equivalent of a Trailer Park Boys episode. The Canadian mockumentary has a lot of gun play, drug use, and swearing, but in the end, the viewer still cares for Bubbles, Ricky, and Julian. Just because Sick Pack is gross and ridiculous doesn't mean it is without literary merit. As the old cliche goes, "Drama is easy, comedy is hard." Not too many works can be insanely cartoonish in execution and emotionally compelling at its heart.
Out of 10/8.5 and 9.5 for fans of bizarro fiction.
Read even more about Sick Pack: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari