Let’s get this out of the way first: you are not ready to read this book. You might never be ready. So do yourself a favour and forget about it. This is a perfect storm of wrong. An unholy union of bizarro, relentless horror and unbounded, amoral imagination. The Reverend Steven Rage also goes by the moniker ‘The Grim Reverend’. There is reason for that, good reason. Stay away. Go and read Twilight 5: Return Of The Angsty Teen Vampire Underwear Models. Seriously.
Still here? Good, then we can begin. The Place In Between is a triptych of tales set around the fictional town of Harbour, two taking place after an unspeakable apocalypse, one just beforehand. The first tale, Blood and Bubblegum chiefly centres around Juan and the shit-demon which lives in his ass. Juan and his passenger traverse Harbour’s cold and dangerous byways, taking care to avoid the demons spilling out of the mouth of hell while trying to rise above the pathetic, huddled masses around them. The one sure way to do this is through the drugs trade. Their key to entering is the mysterious Good Doctor and his patron, the Nocturne. Juan and his partner in crime hatch a plot, kidnapping a blood-offering which should secure their place in the Doctor’s good graces. The scenes which follow are… special.
The second story, the titular The Place In Between, is an altogether different beast. Set in a more familiar universe before things got weird, this is a tale of revenge which will tie your stomach in knots. Del is a man struggling with his wayward wife Luci, whose affinity for cocaine tends to land her in trouble far too often. Del, an upright Navy man, reaches his wit’s end when he finds that she has become ensnared by Sancho, a wicked piece of shit with whom he has unresolved business. After hooking Luci on crack and persuading her to perform all manner of acts on camera, Sancho sends the results to Del who has an understandable meltdown.
An attempted suicide leaves him completely paralysed, unable to to do anything but think, and he is placed in the care of Luci and Sancho, masquerading as an old friend. Del though life was bad before the gunshot. He was wrong. Unable to so much as breathe unaided he becomes Sancho’s plaything while his wife is further degraded. However, a near-death experience puts him in contact with a particularly vindictive demon who makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
FInally we have Bad Notion, Travelling Potion, returning us to the realm of the Good Doctor and his companions. Here the nature of the narcotics trade referred to before becomes clear. There are two main drugs available, analogues of opium and cocaine. Both are produced by a pair of conjoined creatures called Trudge and Drudge, a witless beast kept caged and which thrives only on semen, preferably the Doctor’s but man-goat will do in a pinch. The opiate is secreted by this mutant in the form of earwax while the cocaine is its dandruff. However, Trudge and Drudge harbour another secret – the salt of their tears, if ingested, will literally transport the user to a happier place. Unfortunately the creatures facilitating this transport are none to happy to see their services suddenly abused on such a huge scale.
The Place In Between is a very wrong book on many levels. The worlds it creates are dire, grim beyond belief. There are no happy endings, no morals, no reasons. The stories just are. Reading them was like passing a car wreck and feeling my gaze drawn to the scattered corpses despite my best intentions. This is not a book to read if you are in a negative state of mind or if you are of even a vaguely sensitive disposition. However if you’re made of sterner stuff it’s bloody hilarious in a way which may well make you hate yourself. You’ll feel dirty afterwards, you may actually want to take the book into the shower with you and scrub it clean, but I bet there’ll be a little smirk somewhere. Admit it. You love it.