Book Review: Viscera

This B.A. cover illustrated by Gabriel Shaffer, designed by Claudia Noble

I mean this with all the affection in the world: This book was weird. Viscera is a bizzaro-Wizard of Oz as told by Tim Burton. It was two steps more bizarre than this suburban WASP is generally used to, but, overall, the journey into the squishy world of Viscera was equal parts shocking and heartwarming. 

The Basics:

Title: Viscera
Author: Gabrielle Squailia
Genre: Grimdark Fantasy, humor
Publisher: Talos Press (2016)

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Two drug-addict cultists of the goddess of luck, a wanderer with a magical heritage she doesn’t understand, and a loquacious murderous ragdoll embark on a quest to achieve their dreams in Eth: the chaotic, bloody capitol of an empire built on the literal backs of titanic dead gods. The dangers of the wilderness and the city have no regard for the adventurer’s best laid plans, as anything that can go wrong, does. 

Why this book might be for you:

As alluded above, fans of Burton-esque gallows humor will eat this book up.

If a powerful setting is enough to carry you through, you may enjoy Viscera. Each bloody conflict is inextricably rooted in Squailia’s richly painted world. The history is evocative, the characters are sharply defined, and the magic is unique and bloody. Each new character and revelation is more surprising than the last. 

Strong characters are another driving force in Viscera. When the world and the plot seems to spin wildly, powerful emotional arcs carry the reader through. 

Viscera is very inclusive of LGBTQ characters. The author and many of the characters fall somewhere under that umbrella. If you’ve been living under a rock, check out #OwnVoices for context about the importance of fiction by writers of all backgrounds.

Why this book might not be for you: 

I personally felt that at times Viscera lacked a strong central thread. The character’s motives for pursuing the same goal sometimes felt thin. The plot seemed to wander for a while, blown back and forth on the whims of chance. Each act felt almost like a series of connected short stories rather than a unified novel. 

On the other hand, it could be argued that this randomness is part of the book’s charm and purpose. As we say in my day job in IT: it’s a feature, not a bug. Eth is a chaotic, unfeeling world. It is thematically appropriate that at every turn, overwhelming forces and chaos blow up our expectations. 

All novels walk a line between the satisfaction of surprise and fulfilling promises. If plot cohesion satisfies you more than subversion, then this may not be the book for you.  

Of course, if all the gory action and humor is not your cup of tea, move right along.


Where can you find more?

You can find Gabriel Squailia’s bibliographies at Fantastic Fiction and Amazon. You can read more about their process in these interviews at Bustle and MyBookishWays.

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