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December 8, 2013

Book Review: Christmas is Cancelled (2013, Splatterpunk)

I am a huge fan of twisted, irreverent holiday tales. Take institutions that have been around, sometimes for hundreds of years, and twist them until those institutions are absolutely unrecognizable. That, my friends, is true subversion. The fact that one would be willing to pervert the iconic ideas and imagery that many people hold dear is a testament to that artist’s desire to be a discordant voice, challenging the singsong of the majority who follow one another blindly, sheepishly, in a three part harmony of tradition. Christmas is Cancelled by Dan Henk, the first in a series of extreme horror chapbooks released by Splatterpunk in the UK, shoots straight for the heart of our highly-stylized Christmas traditions with a kill shot and, by all accounts, is mostly successful.

Buy Christmas is Cancelled HERE.

Our story centers around one jolly elf, whose back story is still a bit of a mystery but Henk hints that the big man works for some ancient entities doing the Christmas Eve thing and has done so for a millennia. On this particular Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh is downed in an accident and Santa, facing starvation in the wilderness of upstate New York, is forced to eat one of his own dead reindeer. This turns Santa into a meat-eating machine and the first sleep town he runs across is in for more than getting their stockings stuffed. Santa goes house to house, in gruesome detail, looking for more than milk and cookies.

The tone and pacing of the story are right on. At 30 pages, this is a chapbook presentation so it is designed for a single sitting. The tale is effectively gory and suspenseful, with a metaphor that leans heavily, in my opinion, on the ‘great lie’ of our childhood and the existence of Santa Claus in general. This is where Henk, a fine writer, is firing on all cylinders.

The fault, and the reason the chapbook is less effective than it could be, comes from the edit. Santa’s transition from ‘survival mode’ to ‘crazed zombie-like cannibal’ is far too vague. The confusion is both in the language of the transformation and in the logic of the transformation. I’m not saying that Santa shouldn’t go there. Transforming into that beastly icon of Yuletide carnage is great, and necessary, but what gets us there is problematic. This could be solved in a good edit. There are numerous grammatical errors peppered throughout, as well, so those would have been taken care of at that point, too.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar cover by Dan Henk, too. Christmas is Cancelled is limited to 300 signed and numbered chapbooks. It is only available from the publisher (at the link above) and retails for 5 pounds. For fans of splatterpunk and extreme horror, what else would make the perfect Christmas gift?

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