Carlton Mellick III,
Sea of the Patchwork Cats
(Eraserhead Press, 2006)

It's 11:34 a.m. Tuesday, and retiree Conrad is at a bar, rapidly moving toward drunken oblivion, which is his normal state these days. But at 11:34 a.m., everyone in the world suddenly commits suicide, by the most expedient means available.

Well, almost everyone. Conrad, whose name is actually mentioned but once in this 106-page novella, is too blitzed to comply with that same compelling urge that everyone feels. There are probably other survivors, like those who are in comas or are otherwise physically incapacitated.

Anyway, when Conrad pulls out of his whiskey coma, he finds everyone around him dead. Of course, he moves to the suburbs, and ends up in a house, picked at random, where there just happen to be be several mutant hybrids (e.g., a snake-human hybrid, a dalmatian-human hybrid, a falcon-human hybrid) frozen in blocks of ice. Our hero responds by settling in and pursuing inebriation as often as possible.

Things get a little strange, one morning, when Conrad wakes up to find the house he chose is now afloat in a vast ocean. While the basement has a small leak, he figures he won't sink before he runs out of liquor.

Then, things get really strange.

This is one of the strangest stories that I have ever read. It flows rapidly and well, especially as its 106 pages are divided into almost 100 chapters. I am not sure I can say I enjoyed this book, but I did find it extremely interesting and hard to put down, and I expect I will never forget it. The imagery is nonstop, and every event in the book is pretty much unpredictable. The situation keeps morphing, and the end result resembles a narrative of someone's dream. The reader never knows if this is a fantasy account of a post-apocalyptic journey, a drunkard's comatose delirium, a simple dream or some combination of one or more of the above.

Carlton Mellick III does write well. The characters, no matter how bizarre, also seem real. The same is true for the surreal setting. I was surprised by the large number of typographical errors, though.

If you want a fast, interesting reading experience that pushes the envelope, this is it. If you want a tale with structure and meaning in everyday life, you would be better off looking elsewhere.

by Chris McCallister
10 March 2007

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