Monday, August 11, 2014

Image of the Beast - Philip Jose Farmer


Feeling the need to offset my negative review from yesterday, I bring you just the opposite.
Being an avid reader, I'm pretty much in the midst of reading a book or comic graphic novel at all times. And I've read some great stuff in the last several years. But there have been three that have just stood out above the rest. One of these three is Image of the Beast by Philip Jose Farmer. A strange and dark journey into the weird and erotic.

This supernatural mystery was written in the 60s, though you would never know it. Until I looked at the publication date, I thought it had been written in the 80s when the book takes place. This is even more so to its credit, being an older book, yet like nothing I've ever read before.

Image of the Beast begins in a very polluted Los Angeles where the smog has gotten so bad that the city is in a form of lock-down until the winds relieve the problem.Herald Childe, a private eye and one of the few people permitted out, is at the local police station watching a snuff film of unknown origin featuring his former partner. Without giving away too much, the snuff film is very unusual and appears to feature a vampire. The book spirals into weirdness from there as Childe tries to discover the source of the film. It's leads him into a highly sexual world of monsters and the supernatural.

Being so unique, it is hard to compare Image of the Beast to other media. The closest I can come up with is a detective novel merged with the film 8MM with a healthy dose of Hammer Horror. Many have referred to this book as a pornographic novel. I disagree. Yeah, it's pretty naughty and graphic at times, but overall the sex and violence is used to progress the story. It isn't the story. And it's never very sexy. If anything, the sex is used as an element of horror.

The sequel, Blown, which is included in the edition linked below, is an equally as interesting tale and leads things further into the weird. It also features Forrest J. Ackerman as one of the main characters who gets caught up in his own strange mystery when his one of a kind painting of Dracula by Bram Stoker is stolen.

It wouldn't be accurate to label Image of the Beast a detective novel, an erotic novel, or even a horror novel. It's all three and then some.


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