“Like an inhuman devil dog” – Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome

IMG_2022-12-2-193149Either you’ll be all over this book (like a flesh-eating rash) or you’ll stare in bemused perplexity (or even disgust!) at what we’re about to tell you.

Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome is a collection of three loosely related horror stories that (if you know your stuff) could be said to reside within the Richard Laymond-esque horror sub-genre of splatterpunk (by which we mean to say: gore ensues). You have been warned.

Except, of course, it’s comedy. So, you could also say, it resides to the left of splatterpunk by keeping its tongue (or at least someone’s tongue, probably hacked off at the root, with something blunt) firmly in its cheek.

If the name Garth Marenghi is familiar to you (because you watched Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place on Channel 4 or because – lucky you – you attended Garth Marenghi’s Fright Knight all those years ago), you’ll have an idea what to expect: wildly over the top psycho-melodrama framed by someone who takes themselves incredibly seriously.

Between ourselves, of course, we can whisper that Garth Marenghi is the creation of comedian and actor Matthew Holness (and, at least in his TV version, Richard Ayoade, although Ayoade doesn’t seem to have been involved with the book), but we shouldn’t let ourselves be side-tracked by such frivolous things as reality.

The stories themselves are largely narrated by a famous horror writer – no, not Garth Marenghi but a horror writer Garth Marenghi has made up, Nick Steen. (Keep up.) They all take place in the fictional town of Stalkford (home to an ancient yokel burial ground, Nazi wrecks and a Victorian mime theatre at the end of a pier). And they are all batshit crazy.

In ‘Type-Face (Dark Lord of the Prolix)’, Nick buys a haunted typewriter in order to write the most out there horror he can – except the typewriter has a will of its own and before you know it Nick is engaged in a painful and erotic ongoing tryst with said typewriter, even as the two of them churn out books that are thousands of pages long and composed mostly of hieroglyphics – hieroglyphics designed to summon a veritable hell on Earth! Before you’re even 100 pages into the book, Nick has had all of his skin flayed off and is existing as a sort of sentient gloop in a cup. And that’s just the first story!

In ‘Bride of Bone’, we find ourselves in a Stalkford beset by Steen’s artistic creations, one of whom is looking to recreate a version of his mother in necrotised bone form and, you know, create a bone army (known as ‘boners’, Marenghi is nothing if nothing if not sophisticated) and take over the world. Steen is paired with a tough talking talk therapist called Cliff ‘Livewire’ Capello (who is himself one of Steen’s creations brought to life) and all manner of mayhem ensues.

By the time we reach story 3, ‘The Dark Fractions’ (which, for wont of a better explanation, is Garth Marenghi’s take on Stephen King’s The Dark Half – if The Dark Half kept on splitting and refracting until there were about 18,000 different versions of the author) you know what to expect.

Now, it may be that all of this description is enough to let you know if this is up your street or not. The canniest thing about the book, though, and the thing that makes it review-proof really, is that this is a bad book, written badly – and that’s the point.

“I didn’t care anymore. I felt myself slipping into painless (though still hugely painful, tbh) oblivion as my numbed, mangled frame gave way to the natural process of death, even though this particular death was anything but natural (I was currently bent backwards between two giant disembodied thumbs, remember?).”

The crux of the matter will be whether you find it funny or not. Either it’s so bad it’s funny or it’s just bad. Garth Marenghi’s Terrortome exists in that sweet spot. It’s worth saying, though, that the book is like an inhuman devil dog that just latches on to you and so, after a bit, it won’t matter whether you like it or not because the devil dog will be shaking you into submission and you’ll say whatever it needs to hear just to get it to stop.

Any Cop?: Yes! Sure! Best books evs! Now please stop shaking us in your mouth and let us go!

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