Thursday, March 30, 2017

Catskinner's Book: Chapters 17-20

As they wait for news of Tom or Morgan, Cobb tells James about how he met Tom, as the sole survivors of a raid on an Outsider cult. Catskinner is impressed, not just with the story, but with Cobb himself. Finally, Cobb gets a phone call, telling him which hospital Tom is being treated at.

Cobb and James visit Tom’s hospital bed. His prognosis is stable, but with even odds if he will recover fully or never wake up again. On their way out of the hospital, James finds a flyer for a UFO convention on their car. Written in strange capitalization throughout the flyer is a message, presumably from Morgan: Godiva. They go to the convention, which features a showing of a movie based on Michael Chase’s book. James runs into another Outsider-human hybrid, one with eyes like Catskinner’s.

James, Catskinner, and Cobb go to the convention’s bar and wait for Morgan to communicate again. Instead, a woman named Agony Delapour introduces herself, then displays Morgan’s severed head in an ice bucket. She wants to make a deal with Catskinner, but instead of telling him the terms, Agony wants James to enjoy the convention.

James and Cobb drift into the next room, where a movie alleging proof of aliens is about to start. They catch up with Alice, and then the show starts. It is a detailed dissection of Godiva, presumably post-mortem. James demands that the show stop and immediately goes full Catskinner. In the resulting melee, a lizardman and a blob monster attack. Catskinner kills the lizardman, and, as the blob dissolves the crowd, he breaks through the wall. Alice, Cobb, and Catskinner escape, chased by the Blob.

There is a subtle 1950s drive-in sci-fi feel to the UFO convention, complete with "alien" dissections, a man in black, lizardmen, and the Blob. Looking closer, the sci-fi feel turns into an homage to a famous scene from The Blob where the titular red goo attacks a movie theater. In the movie, the first victim of the attack is the projectionist, while in Catskinner's Book, the projectionist becomes the blob. In both, a B-grade exploitation flick is interrupted by the attack, and movie goers stream from the theater rooms, chased by a reddish ooze. Finally, chemistry is key in the defeat of both monsters. But the real question now that we're in a 1950s sci-fi movie (as seen through the kaleidoscope of the New Wave), will James get the girl?

Well, that and what other homages might have been missed...

Once again, there's a bait and switch with the antagonists. First Victor, then Doctor Klein, then Keith Morgan, and now Agony Delapour; the man/woman/alien behind the curtain keeps changing. While it builds a sense of being inducted into an ever deepening set of mysteries, by all common consensus of technique, this should not work as a story. But nothing about Catskinner's Book has been by the numbers, and, frankly, it's stronger for it.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit that the drive-in UFO vibe you're talking about here was completely unconscious. I think you're right about my influences, but at the time I was writing I wasn't thinking about trying to echo any particular style, I just wanted to throw things at Catskinner that he wouldn't be able to punch out. (And the lizardman was there solely to set up Russwin's "Sic semper tyrannosaurus" line.)

    Now, the reveal of a brand new bad guy in the last few chapters--that was deliberate. I've always hated the high profile villain trope because I figured if there really was an evil genius working behind the scenes you would never see him--or in this case her.