Jeremy Robert Johnson is part of the Chuck Palahniuk school of shock fiction. He’s been around for years, producing an almost underground brand of intriguing off-the-wall tales categorized as “bizarro.” The thrust of the dark genre is that nothing is off-limits, so you can end up with some perverse, strange stuff. Before his most recent book, his Skullcrack City was his most accessible novel, a horror comedy that includes body modification, mad scientists, and violently perverse drug dealers. Other titles, such as We Live Inside You and Siren Promised, go for more pitch-black content, and are probably best left undescribed here.
Johnson’s September release The Loop is his biggest attempt yet to reach mainstream success. Billed as a mashup of Stranger Things and World War Z, The Loop doesn’t quite track with that, as it’s more like The Breakfast Club meets The Island of Dr. Moreau. It takes place in an Oregon tourist town and concerns a shocking plague of violence that kicks off in a truly visceral opening classroom scene. The action only ratchets up from there as we become aware of a conspiracy involving a local biotech firm. This is a bloody tale populated by well-drawn teenaged protagonists. It will definitely keep you on the edge of your reading chair.
Personally, I have a soft spot for the bizarro school of fiction—exemplified by such authors as Edward Lee, Carlton Mellick III, Laura Lee Bahr, and Palahniuk—which has been mostly relegated to the small press. I love seeing another one of the genre’s authors bursting into mainstream success. Although his bleakness has been generally toned down for The Loop, the book remains an in-your-face, gory conspiracy thriller that has an especially wacko third act. Rumor has it that it’s been snapped up for a streaming adaptation, so dive in now!