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The Unreprinted: Electric Jesus Corpse by Carlton Mellick III
The Unreprinted rises again to look at out of print books. This time, we take a look at an early work by the godfather of Bizarro fiction.
Welcome back to The Unreprinted. This series looks at books that are no longer in print, either as physical books or as eBooks. Some are forgotten bestsellers, some were never known, some are good, some are bad, but they’re all in publishing limbo as of me writing about them. Previous installments of this series had been at other places online, including Silent Motorist Media and Babou 691. Now, it’s here at the feel bad dispatch where it’s going to stay. Unless someone pays me to publish it elsewhere.
First up, Electric Jesus Corpse by Carlton Mellick III
Most reading this are probably at least somewhat familiar with Carlton Mellick III. For those that aren't, he's an incredibly prolific author, the godfather of the Bizarro genre, and the author of books like Apeshit, The Baby Jesus Buttplug, and The Haunted Vagina. Before he ever published his first book, he wrote several novels as a teenager. Of this juvenilia, the only one that saw print was Electric Jesus Corpse.
The novel was originally released as a series of twelve chapbooks when Eraserhead Press was first founded. After the success of his first published novel Satan Burger, it was re-released as a trade paperback. A second edition had a short run before being taken out of print. Mellick has been fairly open about the fact that he doesn't like this book and believes it shouldn't have seen print. Having read it, it's easy to see why.
Electric Jesus Corpse takes place in a bizarre near future America being ravaged by a zombie apocalypse. The twelve disciples meet as they flee westward and eventually find Jesus, whose healing power comes from a magic bottle of vodka. The blurb claims this is a strange re-telling of the story of Jesus, but that's only a small part of the book. Most of it is just a weird zombie apocalypse story.
I couldn't help but compare the book to Satan Burger. Besides the fact that there's a point where the titular restaurant of that novel shows up, the narrator of Electric Jesus Corpse has the same conceit. He's a character in the book, but also has omniscience, which makes the narrator switch between first and third person. Satan Burger, however, handles this much better. In Electric Jesus Corpse, it doesn't initially reveal who the narrator is, but later reveals that it's Satan. This “twist” ends up not really mattering much.
Like Satan Burger, the main characters are all punks, goths, and various outcasts. However, they're all some of the broadest stereotypes I've read. One is an English skinhead punk who constantly screams “anarchy” and another is a pimp with an Afro who uses “bitch” at the end of every sentence. There's also so many of them, I had trouble keeping them straight. Mellick's ambition far outweighed his abilities at this point in his career.
The plot meanders a lot. At times it feels Mellick got bored with it and let it drift into tenuously connected subplots. It may be nitpicking to mention this, but the formatting and copy editing is not very good either. The edition I read has a number of typos, weird spacing, and messed up chapter headings.
This is not to say the novel is completely worthless. There's some very creative ideas, some striking imagery, and a couple very funny moments. One of the more amusing parts is a character stepping out of the novel, as if walking off a movie set, and resting before returning for the next chapter. A number of the action scenes were also fun to read, even if I wasn't really connected to the characters involved. The novel's nearly 400 pages, but I feel a far better one of about 200 pages is inside it.
Does this deserve to come back into print? I can't see Mellick allowing it to happen, given his distaste for it. It might be worth reprinting as a cheap eBook for his hardcore fans, but those are the only people I could recommend this book to. If you really want to see Mellick's roots, it's worth picking up. However, anyone of his numerous other books are far better. You'd be better off with Satan Burger for his early work or The Baby Jesus Buttplug for his religious commentary. If this corpse never rises from the tomb again, it won't be a huge loss.