Yesterday I read The Pisstown Chaos, the third in a series of bizarre novels set far into the future (I hope) and written by the wildly imaginative and just plain wild, David Ohle. This novel is so funny and so strange — and cannot be read while snacking. The images are too gross and involve putrefaction and enemas and semen-filled suppositories and parasites, a whole lot of parasites. In fact there is a whole new “race” of people, those who have become so infected by parasites that they are dubbed “stinkers.” Stinkers take a long time to die, and smell quite a bit (hence the name) but seem to suffer very little. Imps, strange creatures that used to roam free but are now bred (and tinkered with) like to eat stinkers. And guess what? Stinkers like to eat imps. So where is the humor in all this? Trust me, it’s there.
Ohle is imaginative in coming up with the foods of the future: starch bars, urpmilk, and the beloved Jake drink, and roasted imp or eel or slug (or raw if necessary, with beetles or without). His imagination goes lethal in devising the earth of our future: sinkholes leading down to armies of decaying bodies and dying persimmon trees dot the landscape while the waterways have become overrun with deadly and hungry hagfish. Clean water, clean air, clean land are all distant memories of a very distant past and the people make do with what they have, while the parasites make dominant.
Who rules over all this hell? The American Reverend Hooker. He has come up with the ingenious idea of shifting people, all people, every few years, into new jobs, new mates, and new homes in new locations. Shifting will quell protest — who can organize when they are constantly shifted — but the stated purpose is to “cure boredom, a way to perk up the citizenry” and put a new spin on things. With the steady supply of Jake and willy (a gel-encased drug that makes you happy or sleepy or awake, as needed), and bizarre entertainments (for example, Moldenke, a hero from the previous two novels re-telling his twisted life story and the display of Sally Doolittle, who has a vaginal opening so unique that no one can enter), the people of this novel endure the shifting and get on with the job of living.
Ohle does not take himself or his futuristic world too seriously. He is out to entertain and entertain he does, very well. Nevertheless, there are some great parodies of the human will (or vice) to devise “solutions.” For example, leader Hooker is always trying to come up with better imps; his scientists create imps that can have their flesh cut off their backs or rumps for eating. In the morning all the flesh will have regenerated, ready for eating again; these uber-imps can feed on each other and on their own waste products, and thus are virtually care- and cost-free. What a concept! Keep it away from our bioengineering labs please….they’re busy trying to devise a brainless but living cow that can be eaten ( and that is not science fiction).
Ohle is a good writer having fun with words and his imagination and with us. He gifts us a crazy and yet heroic family as protagonists of this crazy novel. The Balls family just wants to survive the mania — and the chaos — of the era. Through every trial and tribulation they hang onto their inventiveness (Grandpa invented the Jake drink and Grandma invented a better pedal machine) and their sang froid and their derring-do. Nothing seems to rattle the Balls family (they’ve got balls, and also more than a few screws loose) and they are excellent at going with the flow until the right wave comes for them to ride on out of the mess. We’re with them every step, laughing and whooping. And we’re oh so grateful for our current state of clean water, clean bathrooms, and the precursor to the starch bars, the Carnation breakfast bar.