Gnathostomata Will Melt Your Brain…In a Good Way!
By James Kerley
Apparent Magnitude Press, $9.99, 234 pages
Every few years, a piece of media is created that leaves the viewer, or reader, astounded and confused. The Matrix, Primer, House of Leaves, these all tell deeper stories than what is apparent on the surface. Gnathostomata joins the ranks of these fine and thought-provoking tales.
In this slim volume, coming in at just over 200 pages, author James Kerley tells the story of Dick Malone, a psychic cop in a futuristic society. His home city is meant to be the last outpost of civilization in a world decimated after a cataclysmic world war. The only thing outside the safety of the dome covering the city is ash raining from the sky and wild animals. When Dick gets a case from his chief that looks to be the work of a serial killer thought long dead, his psychic visions begin. He is drawn to a drug addict named Eddie who sees the same visions Dick sees. Together the two escape the city and venture out to find the location of the killer. They must fight murderous androids, are captured by a mad doctor bent on controlling their psychic abilities and befriend fellow escapees.
Gnathostomata is a tough book to explain. There are psychic visions that the reader never quite finds out if they are real or not. Hallucinogenic drugs affect almost everyone’s perception of reality. There are obscure handwritten notes littering the city and countryside referencing water, cabins, horses and drowning. Noises in rooms that don’t exist keep the characters awake at night and dreams interrupt reality. Everything seems unreliable…but it is this unreliability that lends everything its credibility. If everything is wrong, something must be right. It is in this unknowing that the true pleasure of reading this story comes through.
The author has a way of creating a world that feels like home, even within all its dysfunction. Kerley’s real strength comes is in his characters. He does a great job of portraying Dick Malone’s fall from straight-laced cop to junkie and his struggle out of addiction to finally find the truth. Likewise, Eddie’s drug-altered mind is perfectly translated on the page, so much so, that after a short amount of time reading, the reader begins to question their own sanity.
It is not often a book can evoke a truly emotional response, but Gnathostomata does so many times over. The reader feels everything the characters do. Happiness, fear, panic, paranoia, vindication and regret all swirl around the reader on every page.
James Kerley is an outstanding author and Gnathostomata is a spectacular book. Whatever you are doing right now, stop, and go buy a copy of this book.
Reviewed by Andrew Keyser