Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon March 2, 2015 - 9:53pm

'Skullcrack City' by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Discussion has officially started!

Synopsis: You weren’t always an agent of the apocalypse. You used to be a banker. Who knew that too much coffee and a few bad decisions would lead to the end of the world?

Life as a corporate drone was killing S.P. Doyle, so he decided to bring down the whole corrupt system from the inside. But after discovering something monstrous in the bank’s files, he was framed for murder and trapped inside a conspiracy beyond reason.
Now Doyle’s doing his best to survive against a nightmare cabal of crooked conglomerates, DNA-doped mutants, drug-addled freak show celebs, experimental surgeons, depraved doomsday cults, and the ultra-bad mojo of a full-blown Hexadrine habit. Joined by his pet turtle Deckard, and Dara, a beautiful missionary with a murderous past, Doyle must find a way to save humankind and fight the terrible truth at the heart of…

SKULLCRACK CITY

Author: Jeremy Robert Johnson is the Wonderland Award Winning author of WE LIVE INSIDE YOU, the cult hit ANGEL DUST APOCALYPSE, the Stoker Nominated novel SIREN PROMISED (w/Alan M. Clark), and the end-of-the-world freak-out EXTINCTION JOURNALS. His fiction has been acclaimed by authors like Chuck Palahniuk and Jack Ketchum and has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. In 2008 he worked with The Mars Volta to tell the story behind their Grammy Winning album The Bedlam in Goliath. Jeremy also runs indie publishing house Swallowdown Press and is at work on a host of new books. For more information: www.jeremyrobertjohnson.com.

Discussion has officially started!

I've loved everything I've read by Jeremy. His first collection Angel Dust Apocalypse is one of my favorite short story collections and has one of my favorite short stories in it. He wrote one of my favorite stories in the collection Warmed and Bound. And I'm pretty much watching for everything he puts out. So yeah, you could say I'm stoked to read his first novel. I'm hoping that you all feel the same way. And I can't wait to see what you have to say about this one.

Get to reading!

PURCHASE SKULLCRACK CITY HERE

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. March 4, 2015 - 2:00pm

Thanks, Pete--That's a very kind introduction and I'm really looking forward to the discussion!

ALSO: All participants will be entered into a contest to win a very rare (although admittedly error-riddled and kind of ugly) autographed/customized print ARC of SKULLCRACK CITY. Only 15 of these in existence, and fewer still are signed, so one lucky winner will be able to make an extra buck on eBay!

And here's the propaganda on the thing, for those interested:

"A nightmarish yet hilarious journey that begins in the ugly world of toxic mortgages and progresses to the slightly uglier world of brain-eating monsters lurking in dark alleys. You're in for an entirely unpredictable ride, the tale spinning ludicrously out of control as the hero uncovers layer after grotesque layer of a vast macabre conspiracy. Skullcrack City is original, utterly insane, and a shitload of fun."--DAVID WONG, author of John Dies at the End

"Genre-bending [...] haunting and humorous."--THE WASHINGTON POST

"Skullcrack City messes with your mind the way William Burroughs or a bellyful of hallucinogens will do. I'm a longtime fan of Johnson. A master of derangement, he's been bringing it for years. This time, though, it's different. He's burst into the clear and is taking seven-league strides across the literary landscape."--LAIRD BARRON, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

"Skullcrack City's blend of genres, breakneck pacing, brutality, and dashes of philosophy and social critique serve to cement Johnson as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary fiction. Skullcrack City is a smart, incredibly well-researched, and painfully plausible look at our immediate future. Jeremy Robert Johnson's work has always tested the limits of both genre and literary fiction and this novel proves that there's still new ground to tread and that he's already on it."--BOOKSLUT

"Fucking incredibly well written and really entertaining the whole time. Wholly original--it's a gem. Without question a FIVE STAR book."--BOOKED

"Skullcrack City is, by my estimation, a perfect book. Jeremy Robert Johnson is a novelist whose head is so full of ideas and the purest essence of Story that the book practically explodes when you open it. Moving at a breakneck speed, Skullcrack City never lets up."--THE PULP CHRONICLER

Best wishes,

JRJ

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks March 6, 2015 - 9:11am

About half way through this book. Somewhere Terry Gilliam, Cronenberg, Burroughs, and Meilville had a drug fueled orgy and gave birth to this thing. Very good read. I never collect things but would keep a special place for a ARC of Skullcrack City. It's a hell of a ride.

Will save questions for when I finish the book and the discussion starts.

-Bill

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 1, 2015 - 7:39am

Happy April 1st--Just taking a break from reading fake articles so I can pop in and say Hello and thanks for having me here! I'll be checking in daily.

Bill--Those are very kind analogs. Thank you!

So--open to questions, harangues, and pictures of narwhals.

J

 

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 2, 2015 - 5:25am

I'm just over halfway through now.

With buying a house, I've had a hard time deciding to sit down and read. Usually I only get about 15-30 minutes while laying in bed. Usually after work I've been choosing to veg out in front of the TV instead of reading. Like that's all I can take or something.

But with this book - I've been coming home from the gym and grabbing it and sitting in our office and reading. Yesterday I sat on the couch reading while Christina was watching TV and the TV couldn't even compete. It was zero distraction.

I think it's just the right book that I needed at this time.

It's got a lot of ideas that I love. Great writing. And the alternate reality type stuff, kinda like The Invisibles or something? I don't know if I've ever seen a drug used in a fictional medium like Hex is used here. Just a lot of cool ideas.

So, yeah, I just wanted to check in and say I'm really enjoying it and I should be finishing it up within the next few days.

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks April 2, 2015 - 7:04am

I have two questions, which have spoilers, so if you haven't read the book I guess avoid what's below...

 

 

 

 

1- why did Doyle and Dara have sex? I kept thinking of all the shit on this guy's head and how nasty his dick looked and couldn't wrap my head around Dara giving him a go.

2- for lack of a better set of words- what the hell happened exactly in the last chapters? It felt very rushed, like, we're with Doyle and Dara is inside of his head and then we flash forward to what I'm assuming is a new society existing in his mind, and then flash forward again to something I kind of had a hard time following.

 

Note- loved the book, but those were my two sticking points and the things I was wondering about as far as the author's intentions are concerned.

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 3, 2015 - 7:54am

Pete--Thanks! I totally get it--we're in that hustle right now too. Prepping and selling one house, getting moved and settled in another. It's madness, and a huge time suck.

"TV couldn't even compete." I'm going to pull that quote for the Amazon page. Hope you enjoy the rest of the read.

Bill--I happen to know the author's intentions re: those items, but I'll leave it open to discussion for now.

Also, thank you for your very kind, thorough, and thoughtful review over at Goodreads!

AnyDaveWillDo's picture
AnyDaveWillDo from England is reading Lots of books April 4, 2015 - 1:57am

I freaking loved this book!

 

Bill-- I thought that Dara and Doyle having sex kind of cemented her feelings for Doyle, and for the reader. Before they went to Tikoshi's lab (while in the trunk of Buddy's SUV) Doyle was still unsure as to how Dara felt about him.

I felt that it also proved that Dara's feelings for Doyle were more than superficial, what with his brain-backpack and bent junk, for me it lays the foundations for the fact that they will be sharing space in Doyle's mind.

I liked the end, the coda was great. Having just reread it, I can't quite work out who it is from. It has elements of both the Vakhtang and Doyle's collections of consciousnesses.

If it's from (what used to be) Doyle (It speaks of hallways being built, and man/woman having love and joy etc.), there is nothing of him left there. 

If it's from the Vakhtang (It speaks of the discovery of miracles bent for the use of fear, and an illusion of abundance), they seem to have mellowed out a lot.

Did the collective consciousnesses of humanity overpower both Doyle and the Vakhtang and cause them join forces in the end?

-David

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 5, 2015 - 10:20am

I loved the book. 

Only one question for Jeremy at this point in time. 

Was any of the story, characters, etc, influenced by Valve's awesome game series Half Life? I can't help but to feel some similarities there, and I mean that as the most sincerest compliment in the world, because both the game series and this book were awesome. Perhaps I'm the only one who feels those similarities, and if that's the case, only proves my own weirdness. 

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 5, 2015 - 11:51am

AnyDave and Bob--Thanks!

>Did the collective consciousnesses of humanity overpower both Doyle and the Vakhtang and cause them join forces in the end?

That's a very good question. I feel like it would be fine to never touch the world of SKULLCRACK CITY again, that the book as it stands is self-contained. But--there's also a gap of hundreds/thousands of years between the Prologue and the Coda, and I feel like that would be a really rich time to explore because of the struggle which lead to the collective consciousness as it stands in the end. And seeing that Doyle's case already contained the consciousness of both Dr. T. and Vakhtang members, it's quite possible the final collective contained all their sensibilities (as shaped by time and wisdom).

>Was any of the story, characters, etc, influenced by Valve's awesome game series Half Life?

I'm very upfront about my influences, but on the game front the last three things I played were Jedi Knight 2, Resident Evil 4, and part of Bioshock (before my Nvidia card fried my motherboard [don't ask]). I've always heard fantastic things about Half-Life and Portal, but never had a go. Might get my kid a video game system for his fifth birthday, though, so I'll have to check that out. Sounds like I'd enjoy it.

 

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 6, 2015 - 7:48am

Finished the last 3rd or so in one sitting.

If I didn't know you, or read what you've posted here - I'd still guess the influence was Grant Morrison's The Invisibles - which is my favorite comic series ever. So there's worse things to be compared to.

And, yeah, I totally loved the book.

Not even sure what else to say about it at this time.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers April 6, 2015 - 8:20am

I'm very upfront about my influences, but on the game front the last three things I played were Jedi Knight 2, Resident Evil 4, and part of Bioshock (before my Nvidia card fried my motherboard [don't ask]). I've always heard fantastic things about Half-Life and Portal, but never had a go. Might get my kid a video game system for his fifth birthday, though, so I'll have to check that out. Sounds like I'd enjoy it.

I think you'd like the game a lot. The game characters of Gordon and Alyx reminded me a lot of Doyle and Dara. When I hit that part of the book, it was like seeing Gordon and Alyx in my mind, rather than on my TV screen, and it was super cool. 

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 6, 2015 - 8:54am

Pete-Thanks!

Invisibles is up next for me. J David Osborne is crazy about it--I think he even has an Invisibles tattoo. I've always been a Moore guy, comics-wise, but Invisibles is second only (after Preacher) on the list of Comics People Harass Me for Not Having Read. Probably Scalped after that. Then 100 Bullets. And I love Morrison's We3.

As far as comics-influence goes, there's definitely some Watchmen and Swamp Thing DNA in Skullcrack.

For film influence: Big Lebowski, Chinatown, After Hours, Mulholland Drive. Those four especially, with a little Guillermo Del Toro vibe thrown in.

Also, a lesser-known lit influence: Todd Grimson's Brand New Cherry Flavor. Great, weird, anything goes noir with supernatural elements.

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 6, 2015 - 9:34am

You got me to add Brand New Cherry Flavor to my amazon wishlist a long time ago, and I still haven't bought it.

And I think I've given you shit before for having not read The Invisibles yet. You need to get on that! And 100 Bullets is awesome as well. Those two series are in my top comic series along with Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 7, 2015 - 12:56pm

Bob--I had the same phenomena when I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I'd already seen the film, so despite the book's actual descriptions, R.P. was Jack Nicholson in my head.

Pete--I was doing awesome at catching up on comics because there was a combination comics and coffee shop right by my house for a while. Then the owners decided to have a baby and found the business untenable given the new stresses.

However, their place was replaced by a fancy beer store called NWIPA, so the loss wasn't felt for long.

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks April 8, 2015 - 5:30am

Was this book hard to write?

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 13, 2015 - 6:50am

Bill--I think, on more than one occasion, I emerged from my office looking forlorn and remarked, "Why? Who would do this? Who chooses a labyrinthine conspiracy thriller as a structure for their first novel? This is madness! What have I done?"

And then I'd write down a series of questions about the story and stare at them for an hour, running permutations. Then I'd fall asleep, and occasionally wake to answers. One time an answer landed that was so perfect I pulled over on the soft shoulder of a very busy highway, just so I could write it down before I lost the thing.

At the end of the process I told my wife, "No more conspiracies. Next two novels--small scope, limited time-span."

I'd been working on SKULLCRACK since 2006, in various forms, and it mutated so many times I've lost track. I just had no idea how much crazy I'd stored up until I was finally able to sit and write for twelve hours at a go across the last few years.

All that being said, when it wasn't agony, it was a total joy to write.

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Bone Clocks April 14, 2015 - 5:35am

That's funny that you say that because now that I'm at the finish line of my own work, I find myself thinking about the next book. I can't imagine doing another genre heavy novel and I said something to my wife along the lines of, "no fantasy, no weird shit next time around, etc". I think the hardest part about a book like that, or Skullcrack, is that there's no wikipedia you can refer to, no expert you can call when you have a question. You're building a WORLD, and when it's as strange and crazy as Skullcrack City, I imagine there were many days of just staring and jotting down details that never end up in the book. In some cases you have to brainstorm ways just to weave in this information without it seeming spoonfed.

Where does the book take place exactly? For the life of me I can't remember if an actual city is ever listed. Feels like LA to me but I'm not 100% sure.

Also, have you read Perdido Street Station? This book, to me, was the punk rock version of that book, which is to say, as crazy and interesting but not as progressive in terms of some of the langauge. I think it's the humour aspects that make it easier to read at times. Was this a book you intentionally wanted to be funny? Or was that a natural progression?

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 14, 2015 - 8:25am

>"no weird shit next time around"

You say that, but watch how it sneaks in without asking you...and good luck in your surge to the end of the current project.

And yeah, there were reams of details in my notes that didn't make it into the novel, but I tried to mention little things as a way to show the breadth of the world I had in my head (like having Ms. A mention threats other missionaries were facing).

The book takes place in a hybrid city, a blend of Chicago, New York, and Portland as far as my own touchpoints. I can say that 45th in the novel is an analog for 82nd here in Portland, and some Portland readers have caught that pretty quickly.

If there's any L.A. in there, it's just an after-haze from all my subconscious Ellroy cribbing and multiple Chinatown viewings.

Of China Mieville's stuff I've only read Perdido and King Rat. Really want to check out Kraken though. Obviously my work doesn't run as dense/political as his, but I like his vibe and imagination and I appreciate the comparison.

I definitely wanted there to be humor running throughout Skullcrack, but I had to get over myself--over those learned literary affectations which would paint humor as anti-intellectual--in order to do that. We Live Inside You was mostly very serious, and it ended up with a kind of funeral dirge tone, so I really tried to depart from that and let the jokes in. The new challenge there was finding a way to include the humor, but also maintain increasing tension as the conflict escalated. And the solution was to let the humor get darker and darker as the book progressed (which was fun).

Pete's picture
Pete from Detroit is reading Red Dragon April 23, 2015 - 7:58am

Stephen Graham Jones wrote a pretty killer review of this over on his blog.

http://www.demontheory.net/skullcrack-city/

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. April 24, 2015 - 8:24am

Pete--That review is awesome. I love Jones' work so that meant a lot to me.

Also, Bob's excellent review hit over at This Is Horror! It's been a really cool couple of weeks.

I'm almost to the end of this 90 day review-and-media push that Cameron from Lazy Fascist and I wanted to try for Skullcrack. In the past we've released books and didn't expect them to have any momentum until they've built some word of mouth and coverage up over months. We tried to take a vaguely NY approach this time, sending out ARC's and all that, taking on all interview requests. It's been challenging, but good.

After the Powell's reading on May 14th, I've got to dive back into my office cave and get the next novel rolling. Nothing says summertime like sitting inert in a small office for ridiculously long hours!

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. May 5, 2015 - 12:35pm

Congratulations to AnyDaveWillDo, winner of the Litreactor SKULLCRACK CITY Book Club Drawing! AnyDave's name was pulled from a hat (by a four-year-old who was paid in ghost-shaped candy) and has won the final, rare autographed SKULLCRACK print ARC (one of only fifteen in existence)!

Thanks for joining the conversation, AnyDave, and I hope you enjoy this jacked-up version of the book! Hit me with a PM with your shipping details and it'll be headed your way!

AnyDaveWillDo's picture
AnyDaveWillDo from England is reading Lots of books May 5, 2015 - 3:48pm

Sweet! That is awesome, thank you!

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. July 30, 2015 - 10:32am

If any LitReactors have been curious about SKULLCRACK CITY, Lazy Fascist has put the title on Sales Blitz at $0.99 for the next few days.

J

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault October 2, 2015 - 8:52pm

Not sure if and when you'll check back in here.

I wish it didn't sound like such a cliched understatement to say this book blew my mind. I can't count the number of times I've used that phrase, to describe the fiction that's changed my life so far; the work of Palahniuk, Clevenger, Easton Ellis, SGJ, Baer. And each time, it does less and less justice. But what's become more clear to me is what this writing stuff can be, what it can do, which is more than I could ever articulate. Storytelling as means to convey feelings I never knew existed. Ideas that destroy my comfort zone and threaten me to grow. Anyways, good shit, man. You made me laugh and hurt, which is what I look for, what I remember. Made me want to write.

Also, we have the same first name. Not sure if that warrants some kind of virtual knuckle touch. 

Also, also: could be the fact I read this smack in the middle of a Philosophy-heavy semester, but there's a lot in Skullcrack, especially by way of metaphysics, the shiftiness of reality, that seems...implicitely, if not explicitely, philosophical. SC's the first of your work I've read, so I don't know how philosophical you are. Wondered what you might have to say bout that, what sort of philosophy or field of thought in general intrigues you. 

Enough. I type too much.

Thanks for the hell of a book.

Jeremy Robert Johnson's picture
Jeremy Robert J... from Portland, OR is reading an unreasonable number of books. October 27, 2015 - 10:10am

Hey, Redd/Jeremy,

1. Virtual knuckle touch executed. It's a good name.

2. Thanks for your kinds words re: Skullcrack. I'm glad you got some kicks from it!

3. Regarding philosophy in SC: if there's any serious ideological bent to the book it would be leaning in the direction of Buddhist principles. A close eye on the Act titles would show a kind of progression from the isolation of the ego, to the problems of attachment, to the surety (and transcendence) of suffering and the destruction of the self (which ties nicely into the idea of a post-human reality).

There's also some post-modern nerdery in there regarding archetypal hero's quests, but I primarily tried to sublimate all my gimmicks in favor of telling a good story, so I'm not going to talk about that.

Thanks again for reading, and for the question!

J