The Black Dog Eats the City
by Chris Kelso
West Vine Press

"The story goes that the Black Dog scavenges the dark lanes of the mind–those lonesome footpaths will never be safe again."

In this dystopian novella, a disease called the Black Dog ravages people’s bodies and minds. In addition to physical symptoms, the sickness causes depression and suicide. Talk of “The Cure” seems to consist only of rumors. The plot follows several characters as they deal with the Black Dog and the world that is crumbling around them. Kricfalusi and Baby Guts are two lowlifes with dwarfism trying to survive in Ersatz’s slumspace. Lester Proctor’s family succumbed to the Black Dog in Wire City, so he tries to make his way to Shell County to find The Cure before the plague takes him too. Fairfax thinks he can escape disease and unhappiness by jacking into an expensive simulation on a spaceship called Hollow Earth. And “trash-men” Sidney, Iggy, and their boss, Jell-O, deal with some of the physical side effects of the Black Dog without knowing (or admitting) they might be passing it on.

The author builds a bleak, cyberpunk world reminiscent of William Gibson’s speculative fiction. The characters and their sprawling urban underworld recall the setting of Blade Runner. The text jumps back and forth rapidly between characters, locations, and points of view. This narrative method can at times seem jarring but works to show the grim similarities between the different characters’ lives in this violent and pestilent future. The choppy writing style and intentionally repulsive characters could be straight out of a William S. Burroughs novel, but the text remains much more readable than a work like Naked Lunch. The story does not come to a firm resolution but leaves space for readers to ponder the shocking and visceral world to which they have been introduced.

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