Friday, September 5, 2008

Venomous -- Christopher Krovatin

When Locke Vinetti gets angry, bad things happen. When the venom takes over, he feels fantastic and all-powerful:

It welled up inside me, like tears well up in your eyes--only this thing was pure, liquid hate, anger and rage and depression, all in a physical manifestation. This was no simple emotional response; this was a real, honest-to-God, all-over change. It percolated up in my head, bubbling, bubbling, and then bursting, overflowing. I felt it burning in my veins; every part of my body was so alive, more alive than I'd ever felt it before. And once the feeling, the substantive emotion, had filled me and solidified, it took control. But the worst part about it was that I enjoyed it--Fuck, I loved it.*

...but once it is gone he is left shaken, weak, ashamed and often in tears. Now, over ten years since it first manifested itself, Locke has realized that he needs to get rid of the venom once and for all -- both because of the effect it has on his family and his friends and because he's getting the feeling that the venom is ready to take over permanently.

Each chapter is followed by a full page black-and-white comic-style illustration by Kelly Yates paired with an installment about Blacklight, Locke's imaginary superhero alter-ego. Those passages parallel locke's real-life story, are pulp fiction to the max, deliberately over-the-top (I assume) and great fun. Venomous is by turns fast-paced, slow-paced, violent, tender, frightening, funny, joyful, sexy and angsty. It is always gritty.

I read Christopher Krovatin's first book, Heavy Metal and You, back when it came out in 2005**. I hands-down adored it in every way. Venomous, I had a harder time with. I identified much more with Randall, Locke's best friend, much more than with Locke -- as this book is a first-person narrative, I found myself extremely frustrated with Locke on an almost-constant basis. Like Randall, I just didn't get the venom. I'm still not sure if that was my problem or the book's problem.

The book, and even more so, Locke himself, reminded me very strongly of another angry book and another very angry character -- it's a problematic comparison because of the associations so many people have, but I'm going to go for it anyway: Locke Vinetti and his journey reminded me very much of James Frey's character and his journey in A Million Little Pieces. Do with that what you will.

*This text was taken from an advance copy of the book.

**When the author was a junior in college!

Cross-posted at Bookshelves of Doom

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