Bizarro is a genre that is very, very new to me. It’s not something I’ve ever read before, or even had much experience of in other media such as films, but I thought I’d give Strange Medicine, a short story collection of weird tales, a go.
My understanding of bizzaro is that it’s very much like Abstract or Modern art. What I mean by this is that you might need to suspend your belief, challenge yourself or open yourself up a bit more to appreciate it or you might just not get it. Each of these was true for me for some of these stories.
I’ll admit I was very apprehensive about this new reading venture because I’m not a huge fan of Abstract or Surrealist art (but I can appreciate some pieces) and I absolutely cannot stand the questionable “artistry” and pointlessness of Modern “Art”. But I did indeed open the book and dive right on in! Strange Medicine consists of 8 short stores and each is weirder than the last.
In all honesty, some of the stories were a good giggle if I just ran with it and didn’t think too much about the physics/biology/anything in general, like Shish, but there were some (for me) where I either missed the point entirely or just didn’t get it, but they left me feeling like I wasted a bit of time reading them – this is especially true for Telephone but luckily that story is only 4 pages long.
One thing I would suggest if you do read any of these stories is; don’t look for meaning in these stories. I’ve seen a few people make an argument or two for a deeper meaning here or there for some of the stories. But honestly, after thinking about it, I’m not sure author Mike Russell even intended for there to be any deeper meaning in any of these stories other than those overtly eluded to in the stories themselves. I genuinely just believe that he created weird, short stories for people to enjoy. However, I could very well be wrong – I’ve openly admitted I don’t “get” a lot of Abstract/Surrealist/Modern art, so who knows.
I did find that some of the stories were a little too short – I found myself getting well and truly into one of the stories in particular and before I knew it, it was over. Seventy-Two Bricks was easily my favourite short story in this collection and I would honestly love to see a longer version of it. Another one of the stories I enjoyed was Flock – it was very strange (obviously) to say the least, but that one stuck with me for a few days after reading it!
The short stories weren’t as spooky, twisted or as particularly unsettling as I thought they would be judging by the cover art and the oddly menacing full back page blurb of “We recommend the following prescription: Strange Medicine. Weird and wonderful stories for all that ails you.” But all the stories were well written and (all but Telephone) kept my interest all the way through, but more than one story was a bit lost on me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this experience, I did.
This was my first voyage into Bizarro as well as my first time reading Mike Russell’s work. Based off of this short story collection, I would be interested in exploring the genre further, as well as reading more of Russell’s work. However it will not be my go-to genre and I won’t be in a huge rush to get other books in this genre, but I think they would make great pallet cleansers when you’ve been on a particularly long genre binge!
I’d recommend this book, especially to those who haven’t read anything like it before. This short story collection was very strange medicine indeed!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my review in a positive or negative way – all the opinions are honest and my own.