"Dunno, son. Seen a lotta strange things in my time in the bush, even saw the Min Min lights once, but this has got me whacked." - Barry
Kiwi John Irvine delivers a collection full of poetry, flash pieces, and art, as he explores the speculative fiction realms with a decided morbid twist to the journey. While Irvine does settle into some Science Fiction and touches bases with fantasy via some interesting takes on faery tales he appears to be more at home with darker notions of what makes the genre tick. Plus for those prepared to experiment there's a fair swag of recipes revolving around the liberal mixing of blood into the equation. So it is true, you can have your blood curry and eat it too. Oh come on you must have seen that one coming from a mile away. Let's see what ingredients Irvine has for our palates.
One of the few truths we have held to here at ScaryMinds over the past four or so years is that we don't review poetry. Simply put, we really don't have the critical firepower to get down and dirty with what at times is pretty abstract stuff that delivers meaning only to those prepared to spend Saturday afternoon drinking lattes at various cafes rather than dialling into the footy with a cold pint at hand. However John Irvine may have just changed that, though I'm not too sure the lads would be happy with me packing a book of verse down the terraces. Irvine delivers the sort of blood drenched, dark toned poetry that makes you wonder if you shouldn't crack a bottle of merlot and sit reading Blood Curry in front of a roaring log fire. Not advised in the Aussie summer yo! Irvine's lines flow off the page, build narrative vistas, deliver emotion, and generally do all the good things poetry is meant to do without the insipid naval gazing so much of the medium wallows in. If you ever wanted to take out and dust off your leather elbowed jacket then Blood Curry is a good kicking off spot, I haven't enjoyed poetry to this extent since I read Paradise Lost at University quite some time ago. Am I comparing John Irvine to John Milton? - hell no, Irvine writes for a modern audience and delivers far more accessible verse than Milton's aging epic can serve up. Blood Curry is well worth the price of admission on the poetry alone, and the particularly delicate topping here is that the lines revolve around some pretty bad arsed dark genre concepts. Damn you John Irvine, now I'm going to have to tackle some books of poetry that have been gathering dust in the review queue.
Having fallen for Irvine's poetic wiles the actual prose came as a bonus. The Author throws together a swag of flash fiction that visits with some of the more refined horror tropes in startlingly original fashion. So you have tales involving Vampires, Werewolves, all manner of Dexter candidates, and of course the sort of SciFi that NASA won't be including on their recommended reading lists any time soon. Irvine doesn't dial into anything approaching short story length, the prose is solidly in the flash fiction length, so you get some very solid writing in easily digestible chunks that should have most Readers grooving to the Irvine beat. Flash isn't the easiest thing on the planet to tackle, for mine John Irvine joins Shane Jiraiya Cummings at the forefront of flash writers Downunder.
John Irvine's writing style is like single malt flowing over your taste buds. It's been a while since I've run across a new Writer, for me at least, who is completely in command of his style and able to deliver the dark genre goods, but Irvine fits the bill. If you need a course in how to write flash fiction to best effect then dial into Blood Curry, class is in folks, or simply get your reading groove on.
Story locations arrange from North America, through Britain, and down to Australia and New Zealand. John Irvine is pretty much across each region, so if overly parochial Irvine has your back. It's actually something of an achievement to write in differing styles to match the locations, but hey enough stroking of egos here, we just enjoy a decent read that get's the tension flowing.
I mentioned the book has recipes right? Well if you don't mind the concept of blood as an ingredient then you'll probably find something worth creating in your kitchen as Irvine strangely brings recipes from around the world that are likely to push a lot of people out of their comfort zones. My house is simply overrun with cookbooks, if your wife is a baker that's a given y'all, but not quite sure I'm ready to crack on to making one of these recipes to be honest. Though a feed of black pudding for breakfast is something I'll put my hand up for.
There's a boat load of art included in Blood Curry that should round out your meal and provide the visual requirements for the day. We're talking pencil sketches of various elements of the stories and poems, or stuff Irvine picked up off the web to help illustrate the ideas going down. Okay so this is normally a magazine concept but I'm not opposed to the idea and rocked on with some of the art being presented for our appreciation.
As soon as I started reading the kick off story Breeders I was hooked by Blood Curry to such an extent that I tackled the poetry as well. Full recommendation on this collection kids, John Irvine is unfortunately a very undiscovered Writer, but I'm pretty sure with increased attention being sent his way we could have another Downunder scribe to match the best of North America and Britain. Do yourself a favour and get stuck into this book, it will pay back your attention like a run-away night up the Cross. Try the recipes at the risk of your own well-being but take note of the prose and verse.