The Men Inside — Barry N. Malzberg (1973)

20150630_000659(0)Publisher: Prestige Books, Inc.

First Prestige Books (Magnum Science Fiction) Printing, 1973

Cover Art: Ron Walosky

Plot Synopsis (of cover): Gary, Pole Vaulter of the Future, was wearing his favorite blue body condom the day Mandy came to his party. Mandy, the lovely, beautiful Queen of the Bacchanalia, had been invited to every shindig this side of the planet, and, having seen it all, was notorious for being filled with an unshakable ennui. Gary, however, longed to win her heart, and knew that the mold he had cultivated in his underground cave would fascinate. In an attempt to add some flavor to the gig, he bade his pal, Art, to try some of the brown acid—in doing so, Art promptly affixed himself to the wall and vomited ghastly amounts of grenadine all over the grotto. The party was an unqualified success, as evidenced by Mandy’s throbbing erection, and they both lived happily ever after.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: Holy Christ on a cracker. I’ve read some zany shit in my day, but this may very well take the cake (into the back room, where it rubs its impotent junk in the frosting and then carries on a conversation with itself about its sins). The narration is fucking bizarre, as it’s narrated in the cinematic sense of the word. Notably, it makes use of the second person, which is an enjoyable quirk I don’t see often. I suppose it’s a little bit like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in that it seems like it should be read aloud by Stephen Fry (in fact, THGTTG was), but that is where the similarities end. The story bobs, with little warning, in and out of the protagonist’s fantasies and recollections, and with the reality of the novel being incredibly wonky, delving constantly into incest fantasies (later to become actual incest) and homicidal daydreams makes the novel a schizophrenic, surreal read. Oh, right, the reality: our protagonist is a teenager from a futuristic ghetto who is sold by his father into indentured servitude so that a teaching hospital can shrink him down to go into people’s butts in order to excise the glowing green cancerous tumors from within. Yeah, like the Fantastic Voyage, if it were written by the Marquis de Sade. The book is equal parts Anthony Burgess and Grant Morrison, and is probably one of the best I’ve read in a long while. It’s also really fucked up. Read it to your children.

Rating: 9.5 Detumescent Weiners

Questions for Critical Cover Viewing:

* How can I become so confident in my body image as to go full spandex spelunking?

* Is the artwork rotated because the design team figured we’d all be cocking our heads in confusion anyway?

* Did someone slip something into my drink?

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