Bawdy horror: Tony Burgess’s “The n-Body Problem”

The n-Body Problem (2013), Tony Burgess

The n-Body ProblemI hereby proclaim Tony Burgess some kind of mad genius whom I’m terrified of even though I know he’s a nice guy who once saved a kitten from drowning. His works have always danced on the dark side, but even when weighed against his past output of Pontypool Changes Everything, People Live Still in Cashtown Corners, Idaho Winter, and Fiction for Lovers, The n-Body Problem is way, way, way out there. Pushing the zombie genre into places it’s never been, Burgess revels in grotesquerie like few are able. It’s a trip few will forget, and even fewer will want to start.

In a world where the dead won’t stay still, the moving dead, in an idea no sane person would ever come up with, are sent into orbit. Seems ideal, but people on the ground begin to suffer hideous psychological and medical problems as a result. Madness reigns, suicide cults flourish, and a few individuals take advantage through the most gruesome techniques imaginable. And then it gets weird.

Burgess has a hugely cinematic imagination and a vocabulary to match, making n-Body as intense and squirm-inducing a horror as I can ever remember reading, as well as being the most original take on the living dead I’ve ever come across. Burgess exhibits a love of body horror akin to that of fellow Canadian horror icon David Cronenberg (maybe it’s something in the snow up here); in this world, the body is its own worst enemy, aside from Burgess.

Reading n-Body is a gloriously insane, delightfully icky, spectacularly unnerving trek through depravity, a hike that would be a lot easier to take if he weren’t so damned good. Burgess raises degeneracy to the level of art. The n-Body Problem pushes limits I wasn’t sure I had anymore. So…thanks?

This book review brought to you courtesy of a man with lots of time on his hands and a strong stomach in his torso.