Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell

February 7, 2008

Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell 

 

Ugly Heaven, Beautiful Hell, by Carlton Mellick III and Jeffrey Thomas.

 

A dual book comprising two unlinked novellas: ‘Heaven’ by Mellick and ‘Hell’ by Thomas. I enjoy both authors so this was a treat for me.

‘Ugly Heaven’ is bizarro: very typical Carlton Mellick III, and exactly why I like his writing. People die, appear in what they think is Heaven and a strange roadtrip through an utterly alien environment occurs. That’s usually Mellick down to a T — in this instance the roadtrip includes such sidelines as:

  • the bodies of people in Heaven are without orifices, and bodily functions have to be dealt with by slitting them open and sewing them up afterwards
  • what comes out of your body may not be what goes in, eg: insects and strange gloppy foodstuffs
  • behind the backcloth-drawn ‘reality’ of Heaven are vast organic machines and even stranger worlds

Carlton Mellick III is an acquired taste and no denying it. I acquired it long ago and never looked back. If you like your stories seasoned liberally with complete weirdness and your invented worlds beyond ordinary feats of imagination, then look no further.

In contrast, ‘Beautiful Hell’ is more cohesive, and effectively an in-name sequel to Thomas’ superb Letters From Hades. Within these pages the damned try to get through their damned lives in gorgeously depicted and realised Boschean helltropes (today’s Newly Invented Word that you may all worship at the feet of)… but the ordered structure of Hell is crumbling as some of the controlling demons begin to question their roles and form relationships with the damned — and a particular book, which happens to be Letters From Hades, is subversively circling through a damned underground and stirring the pot even further. Add such maleficopolitic (today’s second Newly Invented Word that you may fall over and froth at the mouth about) themes to the imminence of a visit from God ‘imself to Hell — and a plot to assassinate him — along with the unwilling transfiguration of many of the demons into a new kind of demon heavily reliant on tentacles, and you’ve got a lovely, weird little tale that defies most rational conventions and pulls you along like the proverbial rollercoaster until you’re breathless and very satisfied at the end. (and certainly very much looking forward to Thomas’ official sequel to Letters… , Voices From Hades, coming later this year).

The two authors complement each other almost perfectly, though the tales they spin are very different. It’s a breakneck, provocative read that will leave you mulling over the whole long after the book’s been put happily onto the shelf. Find it, buy it, love it and prepared to be weirded out, in a good way.

 

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