Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson Blew my Mind
These stories are happening again, and this time with a greater purpose: to expand the minds of the mainstream. Jeremy Robert Johnson is stepping out of the indie publishing world for the first time to present new and old fans with Entropy In Bloom, a collection of his mostly previously published successful short stories now available in a beautiful hard cover edition and easily available to order at any local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
The path that led me to Johnson was through Eraserhead Press’s annual Bizzaro Con in Portland, Oregon. A friend there recommended the novel Skullcrack City, Johnson’s latest work at the time. Later that night I discovered it was nominated for Bizarro Con’s Wonderland Book Award. And then it won! Fast forward to a few months later and by the time I finished reading Skullcrack City I was itching for more.
“League of Zeroes” opens the book and scratched the itch for more Skullcrack City stuff:
“I look up and across the room at Our Lady of Liplessness. I picture her licking the box I will keep my brain in, asking me what it’s like to be in the League of Zeroes.”
Why the hell does someone want join a club like that? Well, when you’re trying to reach Body Modification Royalty status like your friend who is now known as the famous SaladMan, it’s what you do. Sounds crazy, but it’s possible thanks to the help of experimental Dr. Shinori. Luckily, each story after feels intentionally placed not to make your brain go haywire. I favored “Swimming in the House of the Sea.” It amazed me how brilliantly spot-on Johnson described a typically depressed hotel’s indoor swimming pool and the old man security guard on duty. The story is as simple as the narrator’s mentally handicapped brother and waits until the last sentence to melt your heart. However, to stir up your emotions in a horrific sense is “When Sussurus Stirs,” now an award-winning short film. I was floored by this one. A man lives with a parasite in him:
“I named him Susurrus after the analog “SSSSS” that accompanies his voice as it crawls around in my head.”
As the parasite grows, wrapping its way through him, he encourages it to become a part of him—to become We. Without spoiling the ending, it’s best if you have a sick sense of humor. With these more intense stories, Johnson won’t strap you in an electrical chair just to shock the shit out of you. Instead, he’ll slowly scratch around the surface of your belly with a scalpel before digging in to dissect things; this literally happens in “Dissociative Skills.” Oftentimes after finishing a story I needed a moment to clear my head. I’d look at trees, listen to the wind, and wonder what in the world gave Johnson the idea to produce such a story. About three quarters through Entropy, I peeked to the end and discovered the Author’s Notes. They are listed in the Contents page but I initially assumed they were boring acknowledgment-like stuff. To my appreciation, some of the notes were funny bits that helped assure me Johnson is not completely insane. Rather, his fantastic imagination allows him to write these stories to keep himself sane. Thank goodness something does. Last but not least is the novella length “The Sleep of Judges,” a fast-paced story about a family guy who wants to believe he has what it takes to protect his family from another burglary. However, while doing so, psychological darkness creeps in to play tricks, tempting him to seek revenge while risking his life and the lives of his family.
Read the last story first, if you wish. Or flip back to the Author’s Notes to help decide which story sounds interesting. With a collection like this there is no wrong way to jump in. All that matters is you do.
Christopher Lesko is the author of The Grlz Like Vodka, Long Live Crazy, That’s My Ghoul, The Electric Lunatic, and a handful of deranged short stories. Other creative outlets of his include photography, video production, graphic design, and abstract painting. He lives in Canfield, Ohio.