I’ve had Tony Burgess on my to-read list for months. Unfortunately, things keep getting in the way, which has kind of upped the suspense in reading horror stories by someone who seems synonymous with the term “maniac” (based on the reviews I’ve read so far). I’ve been doing some zombie recon for a super secret pet project (NO, I am not trying to grow synthetic zombie replicas to sell on kijiji during The Walking Dead off season…but CLOSE! Nevermind, I’ve already said too much…) and reading Burgess was definitely an eye opening, near retching experience. And I say that with praise.
So I actually read two Burgess novels this week because after I finished the first one, I didn’t really know how to move on with my life, let alone a new book, so I figured I might as well keep walking down this road to creep town.
Tony Burgess’s novel Pontypool Changes Everything (ECW Press, 1998) takes place in the small town of Pontypool Ontario, about 30 minutes from where I live. One time, I saw a wonderfully charming live performance about the settlement heritage of Pontypool put on by 4th Line Theatre. Burgess’s novel is the complete antithesis of that. Exploring a deadly virus that is contracted through language, the story follows several characters in the wake of this epidemic that begins spreading across Ontario, first as a version of aphasia and culminating in bloody, neck-breaking cannibals. This original and brilliant premise is wrapped in a fragmented, surreal, violent, and hazy narrative that takes some commitment as a reader. There is also film version, loosely based on the novel.
The N-Body Problem is Burgess’s latest (released in October from Chizine) and it might be the most shockingly twisted novel I’ve ever read. Ever. A story that starts off in a world where the bodies of the undead are orbiting the Earth, turns into something so insane and grotesque, I’m actually awestruck. Tony Burgess definitely isn’t for everybody, but this is post-apocalyptic horror literature (and I mean literature because it is severely well-written) that stretches the genre to the extreme. A particularly unique and wild take on a zombie story, I read The n-Body Problem in one sitting, and was immobilized for a good 30+ minutes afterwards. If you want to blow your reader expectation out of the water (and have a stomach for the sick and graphic) give this one a shot, it’s on a whole other warped little planet.