K.T. Katzmann's Reviews > Image of the Beast / Blown

Image of the Beast / Blown by Philip José Farmer
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really liked it
bookshelves: aliens, bizarro, monsters, science-fiction, vampires, werewolves, vagina-snakes
Recommended for: Um... Okay, I really have no idea what other human I would hand this to politely.

Imagine Dracula, if Jonathan Harker ran around the castle naked, killing monsters while randomly ejaculating due to something Dracula had shoved in his ass. So, basically Masturvania.

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That’s the synopsis for the first part of Image of the Beast, which collects two novels of bizarre erotic horror. I’ve done more Goodreads updates and quotes for this book than any other because I cannot believe what I’m reading.

I mean, I’ve read Philip José Farmer before. Yes, he wrote a book series that justifies every human in history getting naked at once, but that seemed like a plot necessity. Reading this, two possibilities suggest themselves. Maybe Farmer had some weird issues to work out, the kind that the Internet was invented for. Alternately, he was giggling as he leaned over his typewriter, wondering exactly what craziness he could get Playboy Press to pay him by the word for.

The plot begins (and stays, for as long as it bothers to remember) on Harold Childe, a private eye whose partner’s been killed. The murder involved a the poor schmuck being strapped down and orally pleasured by woman with something visible hiding inside her vagina. As a Dracula look alike enters the scene and laughs, the woman puts in a pair of razor-sharp dentures and…

Let’s be clear. This is what you’re in for, people. It doesn’t get any saner.

Childe hits the beat, eventually suspecting a reclusive Baron who lives in a secluded mansion in the Hollywood hills. He infiltrates said mansion, and the naked horror show begins.

All through the book, I get the feeling that Farmer is playing with our emotions, trying to see how we’ll react to the increasing absurdity. I imagine his though process being something like:

“Here’s a sexy woman! How’d you like that? Okay, now she’s having sex with a talking goat! Still turned on? No? Bam, the goat has a woman’s head now. You into it yet?”

I made up that example, of course. The real stuff is weirder.

Moving on, let’s discuss (and I feel weird even typing these words) the female love interest. I should put that in so many quotes, a copy of The Elements of Style spontaneously combusts somewhere.

Dolores the Ghost Girl is our main character’s masturbatory aid. She’s a ghost with incomprehensible motives. Everyone except our protagonist is terrified of her for reasons we never learn. She doesn’t speak English, so even though our hero has lots of sex with her in order to help her materialize, we never get an idea of her personality. She is harshly fridged and disposed of in a scene so shocking I started laughing.

I’ve heard of the Sexy Lamp principle, but Dolores is much more representative of a webcomic I’ve recently read with a fascinating observation. That comic opined that most Bond Girls could be replaced with a fleshlight that had a post-it note with exposition attached. Thus, Dolores is a spooky fleshlight that wanders the mansion.

Let’s address this head-on. Along the way, there’s undoubtedly some type of sexual politics that will make most readers uncomfortable. I don’t mean women having a three-way where one of the participants is her own vagina snake, in a world with decades of Internet and anime, that’s almost passé. Specifically, things get a little misogynist and rapey at times, especially in most scenes dealing with our hero's ex-wife. I honestly can’t tell if that’s Farmer deliberately trying to shock us, an artifact of the times, or just the result of the complete unreality of the book. It’s there, and make no mistake: Image of the Beast is the nuclear football of trigger warnings.

That’s the first novel, which offers a chapter of backstory while throwing weird-ass sex horror after sex horror at you again and again. It's an effective weird tale. The second novel decides to be a pulp science fiction story and completely overwrites the world-building in book one, yet no character blinks an eye.

Then again, the world-building does come from a vampire who films people getting their junk bitten off with razor dentures and mails copies to the LAPD for the lulz. He just might be considered unreliable.

So, what are you getting with this book?
You are getting this man…
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…beloved science fiction fan and Famous Monsters of Filmland creator Forrest J (no period, as the book reminds us) Ackerman, as a pulp action hero that’d fit in a Heinlein novel. Farmer gives a moving and tribute to Forry so touching that I was nearly tearing up just after reading a chapter with a vagina on legs, John Carpenter style.

Then, when his Bram Stoker original painting of Dracula disappears, Forrest J Ackerman throws himself head first into car chases and vampiric mind control because He Has Had Enough of This Shit. He came to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and he has to get home in time to mail off next month’s issue of Vampirella.

You are getting a naked fight scene that climaxes where one character slips and knocks themselves out on the other character’s panic shit.

You are getting a woman who can collapse into a group of semi-sentient organs and body parts on legs. Later, people will have sex with at least two of those parts, possibly more.

You are getting the word “spermatic” written more times than you’ve ever seen it before.

You are getting porn Dracula that somehow turns into Porn First Lensman.

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Bravo, Philip Jose Farmer. You got paid for this and a sequel. This must’ve been balls-out fun to write, and I can’t imagine what old Forry’s reaction is.

Let’s be clear. This book is meant to be absorbed as cheerfully berserk shock after shock. Hey, it was apparently good enough for Theodore Sturgeon to write an introduction.

So, how should you best decide whether you want to spend irretrievable moments of your life reading this book? Scroll down. Look at my progress updates. If that's the kind of experience you want, go for it. I can think of none other like it.
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Reading Progress

November 21, 2015 – Started Reading
November 21, 2015 – Shelved
November 21, 2015 –
page 48
14.29% "I'll assume the Dracula-related penis destruction and the apocalyptic smog riots are somehow narratively connected..."
November 21, 2015 –
page 48
14.29% "Dude, just tell your ex-wife, "I'm not in the mood for oral sex, having just watched a guy's penis get bitten off." Relationships need communication."
November 21, 2015 –
page 51
15.18% "I refuse to believe in traffic ever moving so slowly that jumping from hood to hood is the easiest way to cross."
November 21, 2015 –
page 68
20.24% "As a mystery writer, I'm distrustful of any lead that the detective only checks out because they have nothing better to do."
November 22, 2015 –
page 115
34.23% "Maybe a heavy sex scene is not the best place for our protagonist to briefly reflect on his incestuous teenage relationship with his brother.\n \n But you won Hugo Awards, Farmer. You know what you're doing.\n \n Right?"
November 22, 2015 –
page 115
34.23% ""He turned away from the mirror, feeling as he did so a chill passover his scalp and a vulnerability--a hollowness--between his shoulders, as if the man in the mirror would stick him in the back with a knife if he exposed his back to him."\n Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice."
November 22, 2015 –
page 119
35.42% "Seeing the phrase "uterine snake," I wonder why it isn't already a band name."
November 22, 2015 –
page 169
50.3% "The last thirty pages must have been lifted from a chase scene out of someone's erotic Munsters fan fiction."
November 22, 2015 –
page 190
56.55% "Man. Wow. I've heard of "women in refrigerators," but we need a whole new metaphor for this one."
November 22, 2015 –
page 206
61.31% "I have just read the closest thing possible to a cross between porn foreplay and John Carpenter's "The Thing.""
November 22, 2015 –
page 217
64.58% "The walking vagina scene has just ended, and now Forrest J. Ackerman himself has entered the story. I bet the Ol' Ackermonster must've been delighted at that."
November 22, 2015 –
page 223
66.37% "Oh, damn it. This is actually a lovingly-describe picture of Forrest J. Ackerman, a real tribute to the man. Now I'm starting to miss anew the Ackermonster."
November 22, 2015 –
page 224
66.67% "I am actually tearing up over this."
November 22, 2015 –
page 231
68.75% "I'm reading about Forrest J. Ackerman in a car chase against a werefox to retrieve a original Bram Stoker-made painting of Dracula. Why isn't this a book on its own? I am literally losing interest in the main plot due to the intense awesomeness of this subplot."
November 23, 2015 –
page 241
71.73% ""He hoped the cops might show up in time. If they didn't, they might find one dead Chinese."\n \n If your steal from him, Forrest J. Ackerman is Serious Business.\n \n He Will Mess You Up.\n \n "a href="https://secondwindpub.files.wordpress..., look at this guy and picture him in a hardboiled chase sequence.\n \n It's like recasting Chinatown with Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan."
November 24, 2015 –
page 267
79.46% "And after a chapter of a woman bragging about her awesome year as a drugged sex captive, we get an info dump that completely contradicts our earlier info dump."
November 24, 2015 –
page 324
96.43% ""A man with a broken neck lay against the wall. He was identified as Glinch, an Og who had once terrified Medieval Germany as a werewolf. For the past twenty years, he had been working in the Internal Revenue Service, Los Angeles."\n \n I wonder if I'm becoming jaded to this stuff at this point."
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: aliens
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: bizarro
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: monsters
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: science-fiction
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: vampires
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: werewolves
November 24, 2015 – Shelved as: vagina-snakes
November 24, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Erma (new) - added it

Erma Talamante I am just curious enough, and have a few people that I feel comfortable enough recommending this to...

Great review, btw!

K.T. Katzmann Erma wrote: "I am just curious enough, and have a few people that I feel comfortable enough recommending this to...

Great review, btw!"

Thanks! I'm honestly considering doing more weird 70's horror, having just ordered a copy of The Space Vampires. As a lifetime Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, I love mocking the absurd.

message 3: by Erma (new) - added it

Erma Talamante K.T. wrote: "As a lifetime Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, I love mocking the absurd."

Same! (Did you hear about the MST3K Kickstarter?)

And you should do more! Love hearing about the weird and strange!

K.T. Katzmann Erma wrote: "K.T. wrote: "As a lifetime Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan, I love mocking the absurd."

Same! (Did you hear about the MST3K Kickstarter?)

And you should do more! Love hearing about the weird and..."

I am really pulling for them to make the Turkey Day goal. I'd give more than I have if the Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter hadn't sucked my wallet dry. I REALLY hope the speculation that the henchman is Patton Oswald is true. He;d be TV's Frank's perfect spiritual successor.

message 5: by mark (new)

mark monday this review is so enjoyable! loved it. I own this book (of course) but for some reason have never gotten around to reading it. must remedy that!

message 6: by Jean-marcel (new)

Jean-marcel Wow, I've never heard of this before and it sounds absolutely mad.

BTW Ackerman is the guy a fifteen-year-old C. M. Kornbluth punched in the stomach at a convention after confronting him about some letters he wrote in a magazine.

message 7: by mark (new)

mark monday that sounds like an interesting story! I'm going to have to look more into this Kornbluth vs. Ackerman bout.

K.T. Katzmann mark wrote: "this review is so enjoyable! loved it. I own this book (of course) but for some reason have never gotten around to reading it. must remedy that!"

It's amazing what hides in your own bookshelves sometimes, isn't it?

message 9: by Jean-marcel (new)

Jean-marcel mark wrote: "that sounds like an interesting story! I'm going to have to look more into this Kornbluth vs. Ackerman bout."

I don't really know how it happened, I just read about it on the Internet. haha. It's mentioned in a reminiscence about the early World Science Fiction cons from Ackerman and also on a Kornbluth fan bio.

If I remember right, Ackerman was prone to criticising SF for being too fantastical in those days. I also have a book of A. E> Van Vogt shorts where he does a pithy introduction to each one, often giving away the end twist, which I hated so much.

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