Reviews > Published on May 23rd, 2017

Bookshots: 'Black Mad Wheel' by Josh Malerman

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Black Mad Wheel

Who wrote it?

Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box and lead singer for The High Strung.

Plot in a box:

Do not pass on this one. Consume it before it consumes you...just don’t forget the earplugs.

A Detroit rock band is recruited by the United States military to investigate a strange, powerful sound coming from an African desert.

Invent a new title for this book:

Every Good Boy Does Fine

Read this if you like(d):

The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits

Meet the book’s lead(s):

Philip, a musician.

Ellen, a nurse.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Phillip - Joe Anderson (The Crazies, Horns)

Ellen - Olwen Kelly (Jane Doe from The Autopsy of Jane Doe)

Setting: Would you want to live there?

I’m not sure how I feel about an actual desert, but feel free to stick me at the source of the sound and never come back.

What was your favorite sentence?

The desert wasn’t linear. The desert wasn’t in chronological order.

The Verdict:

In Josh Malerman’s debut novel, Bird Box, he made us afraid to open our eyes. In his sophomore novel, he tackles another sense: hearing. What is in a sound, and how can it be used as a weapon (what is the opposite of a weapon?). Malerman investigates this idea thoroughly.

In Black Mad Wheel, there exists a sound so powerful, it immediately disables firearms. When you hear it, you fall to the ground and vomit. One second of noise and you’re never the same again. The government fears nuclear capabilities. They’re determined to locate the source, but every time they send a team out to find it, they come back empty-handed and traumatized. So why not try sending a group of musicians? Who better to find music than someone who creates it for a living?

The chapters in Black Mad Wheel are short and frenetic, continuously jumping back and forth between two timelines: the band’s desert adventure, and the disturbing aftermath. We move along at an insane pace here. For the most part, this works to Malerman’s advantage and strikes a great suspense in the readers. Sometimes, however, it seems to be moving a little too fast, a little too excited to reach the source of the sound. I would have preferred some more time spent exploring the desert. There’s some weird shit out there, and I feel like we only barely touched the surface.

That’s not to say this book isn’t crawling with weird shit, because oh boy, it definitely is. Malerman continues to produce incredibly entertaining and disturbing horror fiction in Black Mad Wheel. Do not pass on this one. Consume it before it consumes you...just don’t forget the earplugs.

Get Black Mad Wheel at Amazon

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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