WTF Friday: Berzerkoids by M.P. Johnson

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Imagine if you will, a bicep-bulging, long-haired, spandex-clad wrestler leaping into frame at the end of an 80s toy commercial. Now, before we get to the catchphrase, put him in drag (most 80s wrestlers weren't far away as it is), stick an alien on top of his head, wrap a monster caterpillar around his leg, and stick a sentient zombie-bashing board in his perfectly manicured hand. Now, as he leaps into frame, get ready to scream along with the sound of his explosive landing.

"Berzerkoids! Gotta catch read 'em all!"

M.P. Johnson's first short story collection embodies that sense of cheesy nostalgia, and wraps it up in contemporary bizarro horror. These are strange little slices of fiction, ranging from the merely surreal to the truly bizarre, that entertain from beginning to end. Honestly, there wasn't a single story that didn't get at least an appreciative nod or chuckle, and more than a few that had me grinning from ear-to-ear.

BERZERKOIDS ARE HERE and RISE OF THE BERZERKOIDS book-end the collection, giving us two very different takes on our childish obsessions. The first seems incredibly dark and unnecessarily cruel, until you get to the final twist, while the last is a tad predictable, but an amusing twist on the theme.

LOVING ARMS was a definite favorite, as a long-neglected stuffed bear finds himself caught between a desire for revenge against the boy who tortured him, and twisted desire for the drag queen that boy has become. HEARTS AND CATERPILLARS takes an unorthodox look at love and obsession, complete with monstrous caterpillars, horny old men, cheating girlfriends, and kinky cartoon mascots. KILLER NAILS, on the other hand (pun intended), taunts you and teases you with threats of the bizarre, before exploding in a grotesque fury.

I THINK I’LL DONATE THIS SEVERED HEAD TO THE SALVATION ARMY may be the best titles I've ever come across, capturing the essence of a story that's deceptively simple. THROUGH TIME, KNUCKLES FIRST was another favorite, with a man dragged through time by a half-rotten alien head in search of a drag queen who just may be the daughter he doesn't yet have. THE FINAL FAILURE OF A PROFESSIONAL SMALL ANIMAL INSIDE-OUTER is probably the second best title I've come across, leading off another story that's simple, straightforward, and somewhat sadistic.

As much as I enjoyed the teddy bears, time travel, and drag queens, STORY OF A BOARD was the highlight of the collection for me. Zombie apocalypse stories may be a dime a dozen nowadays, but how many of them are told from the perspective of the wooden board that, between instances of being tossed to the curb, is used to bash their skulls in (and save the world)?

Bizarro stories often work best on a small scale, in stories that can explore the twisted concepts without overstaying their welcome, and that makes Berzerkoids the perfect read. Yes, it's often disgustingly amusing, and sometimes even horrifyingly arousing, but it's always original, and consistently entertaining.

Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 11th 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.