My Daddy’s hands were like burnt maps. He said if we wanted to learn how to conquer the world, all we needed to do was look at his hands.
CROOKED GOD MACHINE by Autumn Christian is a mesmerising, monstrous nightmare of a novel. There’s David Lynch in there, and Cormac McCarthy, and Southern Gothic, and modernist narrative forms, and folklore and half a dozen other things that are all the novelist. I’m just trying to put some handles on it for you. It is horrific and unrelenting and dreamlike and beautiful. I found it weirdly hard to put down. Like it didn’t want to let go. Like it wanted to make me keep looking.
It’s the story of Charles, who is living through the very slow end of the world, living in a small house in a small town that is always dying but never quite dead yet. It’s the story of growing up during the end of the world. Normalising the most awful things.
There are almost clues to what happened. But they’re scattered by dream logic, and the lyrical horror of transapocalyptic life, where God shrieks at you through the television, a Jenny Greenteeth-like monster called Jolene eats bones in the creek at the end of your garden, people go to sleep for ten years with spiders in their heads and the hell shuttles are always on their way to collect you.
For some of you, there’s a bunch of things in there that are going to feel disturbingly close to home. It is not a comfortable read for anyone. But it compelled me. It’s young, raw work, but it is fierce and furious and knows what it’s about. I admired it a great deal.