Pros: If you want a catalog of the grotesque…
Cons: Needlessly depraved and bizarre
Rating: 2 out of 5
Book Twitter let me down for once in its recommendation of Rob Bliss’s The Bride Stripped Bare. English professor Chris gets contacted by his old friend Gord, who wants him to be best man at his wedding to Venus Baer. Venus’s wealthy family is happy to pay for Chris’s travel, so Chris packs up and heads out. He’s surprised to find his old friend has landed an incredibly gorgeous, very hot, wealthy woman. He’s even more surprised when he finds the bachelor party to be a hallucinatory, drug-fueled escapade of sex and violence–although he’s pretty sure some of the things he remembers were just dreams. (He couldn’t possibly have killed a man, could he?) Unfortunately, while trying on the wedding day finery, Gord lets something slip that he shouldn’t have, and soon Gord and Chris are on the run. The entire town seems to be made up of family, however, so they won’t get far.
Just to be clear, so you have some idea of whether the things that I liked or dislike would matter to you: I have nothing inherently against the grotesque in books. I enjoy the occasional bloody horror novel. However, I like to feel that the violence and blood and sex serve a purpose in the telling of the story, rather than being the point of the novel in and of themselves. In this case, I felt the blood, drugs, sex, cannibalism, rape, and incest were the point of the story rather than being a means to tell the tale. I felt like I was reading an internet fetish story.
Things also get quite weird. There’s magic afoot, and a bear cult, and a world-spanning depraved family capable of having one person squeeze out 10+ babies in an hour or two. I fail to comprehend how these folks have remained beneath the radar. The birth and conception material gets particularly hallucinogenic.
The characters aren’t that great. The only positive female character is a stereotypical horror heroine–goes through trauma and then rallies to coldly put bullets in the bad guys. Chris is a little too into the depravity for a good protagonist. Gord is basically at the mercy of whatever anyone wants him to do in order for more coke. Venus and her father and brother are vicious and crazy.
The pacing is actually pretty decent, but it isn’t really in service of anything worthwhile. If you just want to read a litany of depravity with an utterly bizarre cult of excess, you might enjoy this. Otherwise, I’d skip it.