Entropy in Bloom is a collection of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s greatest hits that includes a brand new novella, and tons of strange stories. It’s a book that rewards Johnson’s fans while welcoming new readers into the bizarre worlds that he creates. Parasites, risky body modification, cockroach suits, the apocalypse: these are some of the extreme topics that Johnson tackles in his fiction. But it’s the subtlety that Johnson employs which makes each piece so gut-wrenchingly effective.
The range of themes and feelings Entropy in Bloom explores are vast, but there is something profoundly human at the core of each story. Whether it’s fear, love, or longing, what every character shares in common is a struggle against their innate nature. There is a force derived from this tension that draws the reader into the collection. Maybe it’s because Entropy in Bloom is a book about choices, about reactions and consequences, and the spectrum of human behavior that ultimately leads to chaos.
It’s difficult to put a genre tag on Entropy in Bloom because the stories are so unique. There is an inherent grotesqueness but also a willingness to stare life’s ugliness in the face without blinking. At some points, Johnson’s characters are highly paranoid, and at others, they are weeping and at their most vulnerable. That’s what makes this collection so beautiful. On one page, you might be shocked and terrified. On the next, you might get hammered in the grief bone. There’s no predictability, but it’s all very familiar.
The Sleep of Judges, the novella that concludes Entropy in Bloom, is a highlight that takes everything that makes Johnson’s stories exhilarating and puts it into one longer piece. There is nail-biting tension as the protagonist goes down a disturbing rabbit hole, becoming more crazed as he struggles to protect his loved ones. If you have ever felt vulnerable, this story will tear that feeling open like a scab, reach in, and remind you of that icy stiffness at your very core. It’s what Johnson does best, takes humans at their most vulnerable, and escalates it to the point of absurdity, and eerie familiarity.
Entropy in Bloom is a brain grenade that will blow your mind into splattered chunks. The stories in this book can be read again and again, as long as you have a strong stomach, a craving for the bizarre, and empathy. There’s no way to classify this book other than to say it’s a spectacularly odd, horrifyingly real masterpiece. If the complete final destruction of the world came, and Entropy in Bloom was the last book I ever read, that would be cool with me. Hopefully that won’t happen anytime soon, but do the right thing and pick up a copy, just in case.