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Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect

by PD Alleva

Rating: ****

From the Carnival of Chaos to the Carnival of Souls, Jigglyspot, the half-human, five-foot clown presides over both and more for his demonic paymasters. There is nothing Jiggly won’t fix or arrange aided by his loyal troop of fiendish clowns and, with the Summer Solstice at the Cannibal Café approaching, he needs to find bodies, lots of bodies…

Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is an intense and gore-splattered epic psychological horror that moves between murderous thriller and contorted cosmic fantasy along the way. It’s a heft of a read but the short chapter structure, fascinating cast, and twisty sub-plots keep the pages turning.

Alleva describes the novel as “addictive” and I would concur. It is one of those books when “just one chapter more” turns into another hour of reading. Be warned, however, you will be sucked into a vortex of unimaginable, relentless, and disturbing horror.

The arbiter of this carnage is Jigglyspot. He’s a sadistic, twisted degenerate, absolutely terrifying, and imbued with a sinister comic energy. He is totally repugnant but, occasionally, elicits a brief flicker of reader sympathy, and toward the end, he veers momentarily into the anti-hero. There is a vulnerability within Jiggly and, surprisingly, in a couple of places, the merest glimpse of a moral compass.

Despite Jiggly being the Ringmaster of the novel, the narrative also belongs to quite an intriguing collection of individuals whom the reader meets through alternating chapters.

Certainly, for the first half, each chapter is effectively a short story devoted to a different character’s secrets, desperations, and dramas, and each character is connected. They are a contrasting bunch, not all likable or well-intentioned and it starts to become apparent each will have a role to play in the Summer Solstice.

Alleva writes with a controlled, driving pace, probing his characters' darkest emotions and desires, subtly altering his tone to suit their individualities and perspectives. The tableaux that he spins around each are well-crafted and absorbing, throwing up unexpected twists to reveal different facets of their personalities. He never loses continuity or momentum, and even minor threads of narrative weave together and have a purpose.

Alleva’s prose is compelling when he describes characters' mental and physical reactions to the horrors they are being subjected to or witnessing. It’s visual, sensory, and his imagery is forensically beautiful. Cassandra LaRue and Special Agent John Mills’ experiences unfold with especial skin-crawling, sickening realism.

However, although Alleva’s imagination appears almost limitless to the mind-boggling extent and extreme nature of the torture that his cast endures, it’s never gratuitous, although if you are squeamish or offended, then fortify yourself.

Mills’ trajectory, in particular, becomes the stuff of existential nightmares, and as the Solstice reaches its blood-soaked zenith, the narrative resembles the writhing literary equivalent of a Hieronymous Bosch painting reveling in depraved violence and grotesque incident.

Amid the slaughter and sacrifice, there is an anomaly in the form of Kera, Jiggly’s girlfriend. At first, I was unsure whether to trust the direction Alleva was taking her or whether it worked especially in her early scenes with Tyler.

However, she began to remind me of Hope winging her way from Pandora’s Box and, consequently, I found her a smart and slightly poignant addition providing a sense of balance.

The main plot is relatively straightforward, but there are moments when the gruesome mayhem hurtles the narrative down a rabbit hole that’s a little too surreal.

Nonetheless, PD Alleva is a blazing force in psychological horror; his work is fresh, clever, and creative. For fans of the genre, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect is an absolute must-read. Highly recommended.

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