The Mean­ing of Blood

Chuck Caruso Cloud Lodge Books (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $10.95 (224pp), 978-1-9995873-0-7

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - LINDA THORLAKSON

Chuck Caruso’s The Mean­ing of Blood prom­ises a de­scent into a nether­world of blood and per­ver­sity, and it de­liv­ers on this as well as some­thing even more heinous: the idea that or­di­nary peo­ple crave blood and per­ver­sity just as much as vi­o­lent per­verts.

Tales gal­lop through time and space on the backs of gen­res rang­ing from his­tor­i­cal fic­tion and fan­tasy to erot­ica and sci­ence fic­tion. Be it hot, cold, con­sumed, or splat­tered, blood surges through the sto­ries. Sus­pense is height­ened through hu­mor, and com­edy is fu­eled by hor­ror. Out­wardly mun­dane lulls are em­ployed to am­plify anx­i­ety about what might hap­pen next. Long af­ter the un­ex­pected has been es­tab­lished as the only pos­si­ble out­come, sto­ries con­tinue to sur­prise.

Prose mim­ics the cam­era, mi­cro­phone, and sound­track of a movie set, without sac­ri­fic­ing the writ­ten word’s unique abil­ity to ex­press char­ac­ters’ thoughts and feel­ings. Di­a­logue and brawls lay down a back­ground rhythm against which the sound of a man’s spine crack­ing is “like a log be­ing split with an ax.” Caruso avoids cap­tur­ing de­tails that could slacken the pace, metic­u­lously trans­port­ing his com­plex char­ac­ters and ma­neu­vers off the page and into the mind’s eye. Even when death might or­di­nar­ily be ex­pected to bring an “ob­scene heap” of corpses to a scream­ing halt, they com­mence twitch­ing “in a mor­bid par­ody of the car­nal act” in­stead.

Sus­pense eas­ily prompts page turns, but what pro­vides the for­ward thrust that is es­sen­tial to get­ting from one story to the next? A char­ac­ter says it best: “Even when the knife is plunged into your guts, you can’t help but lean into the blade.”

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