The Havoc Tree – Layden Robinson
The short story structure of The Havoc Tree is really a composition of hedonistic, macabre and sexually explicit tales. Each element in this surreal book is cryptically poetic and the writing is uncompromising in its rampage through violence, sexual depravity, madness, and imprisonment.
The Eagles song Hotel California kept playing in my head.
“And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast.”
The sense of psychological incarceration feels like hell on a bad drug-induced trip. The overwhelming nightmarish feeling of abject despair and loss is prevalent in all stories. There is no escape! – “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
The following quote from the story The Place illustrates the insightful prose and common fatalistic ending.
“The lights began to dim, as the sound of the deepest black keys on a dusty, yet timeless, grand piano carried cryptically off the cold marble floor; resonating throughout all entities, as helpless and SUPERIOR pleasure intertwined with permanent pain were soon to be introduced to Freddy Fudtucker and Danny Boy Larson, who were led to unforgiving quarters beyond all prayer and forgiveness. Freddy Fudtucker and Danny Boy Larson, through all of their superior suffering, screamed inside themselves; “Maybe we should have picked another fucking Place.”
I am a little unsure about the extreme remorseless violence, sexually explicit torment and sybaritic temperament. A few stories were uncomfortable reading but that in itself is not an improper feeling. I can understand how this novel is not for everyone’s taste and some will absolutely love it. Don’t let me take anything away from the imaginative writing, as it has an interpretation, and successfully conjures emotions and images. I think because the book is quite short and each story is very snappy, the structure works well for this material. I do feel the book was sitting on the edge between an emotional rollercoaster of horror and an overindulgence in violent and sexual scenes.
I would give this book 3.5 stars and would like to thank Layden Robinson for providing me with a copy of The Havoc Tree in return for an honest review.