Friday, 17 March 2017

Recommendation: Unger House Radicals by Chris Kelso

Unger House Radicals by Chris Kelso is a hell of a book: a hell of a book to read, and a hell of a book to even begin to describe. But here goes.

It starts simply enough: a wannabe avant-garde filmmaker and a serial killer team up, with the goal of filming the killer's crimes to start a new cinematic, artistic and philosophical movement: Ultra-Realism. But the story soon turns to people inspired or affected by this movement, and we see the ripples of Ultra Realism's creation spill out into wider society. The plot is told from multiple points of view, cutting across and contradicting each other (and each expertly caputed by Kelso). From these voices, Kelso weaves a whole damn tapestry of violence, nilhism, fractured psyches, blurred timelines. Except 'weave' isn't the right word; instead say Kelso pulls at one loose thread, until everything you think you knew is unravelled. It's like some unholy combination of J.G. Ballard, Fight Club, real-life accounts of serial killers, and a William Burroughs cut-up experiment.

In the hands of a lesser author Unger House Radicals might have been a huge mess. But it's tightly structured despite its sprawling feel, and Kelso's narrative skills hold everything together. There are brutal scenes here, but Kelso does not depict them gratuitiously or lingeringly. A bleak, playful, challenging yet hugely enjoyable work, Unger House Radicals will almost certainly reward rereading. As it is, after one read Unger House Radicals is one of the most memorable books I've read for a while, and one I can highly recommend.

Unger House Radicals (UK | US)

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