(From the back cover.)
Welcome to the World You Live In.
It’s a mess. It’s diseased, polluted, over-populated and too close to the sun. But it’s all we have and we’re losing it fast, so we may as well have a good laugh before the sun reaches out and re-claims us.
In Blowing Up, Biff Mitchell shakes the foundations of a world gone bad with outrageous dollops of inappropriate humor. Nothing is sacred, nothing is spared. Nothing is safe in a world ac-cumulating too much ammunition for too few targets.
So welcome to Mitchell’s world of ghosts who have to get the last word, ball-busting muses who torture for the hell of it, a woman who cries rabbits, an office of petty-minded workers fused together in a nuclear holocaust and a world where you write grammatically correct essays or starve.
But…there will be laughter.
How do you explain the new couch to your girlfriend when she calls three years after she died?
How long would you live if you had to write grammatically correct essays for food…every day?
What do you do when death forgets you?
When you’ve killed all the bad guys…who’s left?
What’s it feel like inside the minds of 100 people, 10 bats and 1 cat.
“There’s a lot of crap out there, and shit falls out of the sky, but not on me. I’m the source of my own crap and people respect me for that. I’m like the faucet I can’t turn off. Wordsworth’s spontaneous overflow without the meter. I’m a damn flood.”
This quote, the second paragraph in Biff Mitchell’s collection of short stories, could perhaps be taken as a summary of the book as a whole. I don’t mean to suggest that Blowing Up is crap – quite the opposite – but this bit captures the author’s fluency of expression as well as his penchant for self-denigration. His stories are simultaneously shocking and funny, literate and profane, a riot of cynical creativity brightened by occasional flashes of compassionate insight.
I chose to review this book because I know it’s difficult to find readers for short fiction. I didn’t have any expectations, which is fortunate, because this volume would have violated them – whatever they were. Blowing Up doesn’t fit well into any category. A mixture of satire and science fiction, spiritual pondering and scatological polemics, the book is utterly original.
Many of the stories are deeply disturbing. Mr. Mitchell does not seem to have a high opinion of humanity, or of himself for that matter. Nevertheless, his artistry impressed me, and when I finally finished reading, I felt surprisingly good despite having been raked over the emotional coals.
“These Eyes” is representative, a cautionary tale about relationships and the wisdom of leaving well enough alone. The narrator has hooked up with the woman of his dreams. He’s contented, fulfilled. Life is near perfect. Even his photography career seems to be thriving. Yet somehow he is obsessed by the notion that there’s something terribly wrong with his beloved. Of course, it turns out that he is right.
“Food for Words” offers a snapshot of a future where food is so scarce that cannibalism has become institutionalized. The only way to acquire food is to write about it. If your essay describes the food you crave with sufficient vividness and skill, you may be selected to eat rather than be eaten. Needless to say, those who are too lazy or too unskilled to write have been weeded out of the population long ago.
With its escalating violence, “Killing Assholes” will put you through the wringer. At the same time, it’s an amazing piece of craft, with an ending so apt that my admiration overcame my revulsion.
The title of the collection comes from one of the longest pieces in the collection: “100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Cat Blowing Up”. This darkly humorous story provides a window into the minds of a wide assortment of characters in the few minutes before a nuclear explosion vaporizes them. There’s no moralizing here, but you can’t help introspecting about your own preoccupations, and how trivial they may be.
Perhaps my favorite entries are the two very personal vignettes in which the author bares his own insecurities: “Still Life with Sax and Muse” and “Still Life with Muse and Rain”. They chronicle surrealistic conversations with the author’s muse, a seductive green-eyed vixen named Jo who continuously ridicules him while challenging him to articulate her lessons and release his talent. She laces her criticisms with absurd epithets, calling him “pointillist punctuator”, “pretentious noun nudger”, “verb vermin”, “noun hound”, “paragraph parser”. An author myself, I can appreciate Mr. Mitchell’s doubts and confusion, though I’m not sure I could express them as well:
Blushing deeper, I changed the subject. I was running out of strategies. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’ve been tripping over metaphors, drowning in symbols, sinking in structure, ship-wrecking in un-modulated literary constructions.” I had no idea what I was talking about.
“And it really annoys me,” she said, “listening to you spout off at the mouth when you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Time to shut up and listen.
"That’s right, clause crawler. Now listen.” She leaned forward spilling infinite cleavage across the expanse of my vision. “The story is in the telling.”
For about a minute.
A minute with a silent muse is like a lifetime in a country song.
“Are you equating my cleavage with the telling?” she said.
Reams of cleavage stories rushed past my eyes. I snapped them upwards into the green fields of my torment―whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. “But…where’s the art in that?” I said.
Wrong question. I was on the wall again. Point of entry: left ear. Point of exit: the other nipple.
“You’re missing the point, meta-moron. The telling is the art.”
Muses always come out on top in this sort of conversation. Still, reading the results in Blowing Up, I have a sense that the author has indeed taken Jo’s advice to heart.
I was granted complimentary access to Blowing Up by Biff Mitchell as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Goddess Fish Promotions. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Blowing Up is a collection of short fiction stories that sprinkles absurd humour and surreal observations into horrifying situations. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! I absolutely loved the attention to visual details throughout, and I loved being left scratching my head at the end of several of these stories.
The stories are a nice mix of first and third-person POVs and each presents very different lead characters with just enough time to get to know them. Some are barely a few pages long and end before you know it, while others feel like novelettes, and some feel like they could be explored further into a novella or novel.
I adore the titles! Titles like “100 People, 10 Bats, and 1 Cat Blowing Up” really piqued my curiosity and the story that followed did not disappoint.
Like most short fiction anthologies, I’m left feeling like nothing was long enough and I want more, but these are good feelings! I understand the point of short fiction, these are written very well, and they’re just as long as they need to be. I just want more!
This was an excellent collection of stories. My first thought when I began reading was, what have I gotten myself into? Not in a bad way.
But in an ‘I can’t wait to see where these stories take me next’ way. It was easy to get wrapped up in them, following each unique tale from start to finish.
Stories that will make you think, give you chills, and sometimes will just leave you with a feeling that something is a bit odd, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
If you’re a fan of the weird, speculative fiction, or just looking for something new to shake up your reading routine, then you’ll want to grab this book.
If you are in need of some good, tongue-in-cheek and honest humour, this book is exactly what you want! I went in thinking that it would be a good laugh and great for read during a long drive, but was left in waves of intense laughter and found myself telling m husband about sections to share the fun.
Yes, it takes a hard look at the world around us, really making us stop to think, but also making us wonder about what is really happening next to us or in the next room. You see the view of many people and things, through the eyes of an honest person, with a pinch of tell it like it is. Truly a book to really enjoy.
I found it really easy to pick up where I left Off because of how the chapters were laid out, so it is also perfect for parents, who find they only have a few moments to enjoy a book before doing something else, as it is easy to dive back in and also you really do want to!
I liked the overall sense of the story and the pace and flow, as they kept it interesting and entertaining.
Overall, a great read and one I really, fully recommend!
My favorite line in this book: There’s nothing I love more than a free meal in a friend’s home, friend or not.
Numerous short stories stripping away all the honest and sometimes reprehensible thoughts in the minds of people, with varying outcomes—the dissolution of the body, murder, Death. Humorous, gruesome, and astonishing, all at the same time.
No need to get too attached to any one particular character. By the time you realize what’s going on, the story ends and we’re off on another adventure into crazy land. My head was spinning, but in a good way.
Satire and a bit of horror thrown in for good measure. Some of the characters evoke sympathy, others do not. But in the end, the book was a spectacularly spooky and maliciously humorous (at times) satire of different people at different points in their lives—young and old, smart and ignorant, attractive or ugly.
They all meet their Maker in the end, but what a story they make! Definitely enjoyable.
The dialogue flows thick and quick, and I wondered how people can think so quickly on their feet, so to speak. Different tales and short stories of individuals in every walk of life, at least one or two you can relate to on your own.
Stephen King on steroids, offering a fun ride for the price of a book. A highly entertaining read.
I really don’t care for the numerous mentions of rats. Not an error, this is just me.
I enjoyed this compilation of stories. Some were odd, some funny and some hilarious. A bit different in a variety of ways but they were fun to read. And a few made me think too. And all were different from each other too. And hard to say which was my favorite. Easy to read and hard to put down as I had to keep reading to see what crazy thing was going to happen in the next one. Worth reading as I enjoyed them all