Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lethally Bleak


Many writers try to be bleak. Joyce Carol Oates, for instance, authoress of bleakness, recent recipient here of a Blitz Rating, tries hard to be bleak. Not all who try to be bleak achieve it.

Jim Nisbet has been hyped as the bleakest and darkest-- most "noir"-- of all noir writers. It's not an exaggeration.

This is a problem from the reader's standpoint. Lethal Injection is an unrelieved depiction of a crude world populated by assholes. It's bleak.

There are four chief characters.

The ultra-violent black prisoner on death row in Texas is a heavily idealized homoerotic projection of the author's liberal ideology. The doctor who injects the prisoner is impressed by the condemned man's Nietzschean violence. He seeks to discover if the man was in fact innocent. This path leads the doctor to two depraved druggies, rounding out the quartet.

The doctor is so weak, characterless, and stupid, he gives the two druggies more power than they would otherwise have. This is the crux of the plot. Doctor or no, he's inferior in body, intelligence, and will even to them. They use that power.

Nisbet does this kind of thing very well, creating a world without hope-- an environment without humanity, only animalistic warped misfires of human beings operating across an inescapably ugly landscape.

At bleakness combined with violence, Nisbet has no peer. The noir experts are right. In the entire book there's not a single ray of light.

Lethal Injection is the kind of fiction Joyce Carol Oates wishes she could write!

PUBLISHER: The Overlook Press
REVIEWED BY: King Wenclas

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